The Race Between HDP and AKP: Political Implications of June Elections in Turkey

By Dr Amir Sharifi:

There is a great deal at stake for Kurdish human, cultural, and socio-economic rights in Turkey in the June election with ramifications for either contributing to democratic progress or the full emergence of an autocratic regime in Turkey. The larger question is the political outcome of moving from the bullet to the ballot to meaningfully engage in a genuine peace process. The fact of the matter is that the settlement only exists in the futility of the Wise Men’s Commission and occasional declarations about a process, which is now more a caricature than responsible and responsive commitment to peace on behalf of Justice and Development Party AKP. Only with the surpassing of the 10% threshold can Kurds in Turkey hope to bring about any genuine political change and reform and reverse the emergence of a religious autocracy.

The ruling AKP is determined to prevent the Democratic Regions Party (DBP, formerly the BDP) and its sister organization People’s Democratic Party (HDP) from achieving this end, which is perceived a serious threat to its political and ideological hegemony. It is in pursuance of these goals that AKP has launched an unfair, deceptive, slanderous campaign against its critics and other candidates including those of HDP. Luckily HDP through its civic and enlightening community engagements has acquired an enviable political maturity and sophistication to encounter such conspiracies; it has consolidated itself as a political power and broadened its social base among not only among Kurds but other minorities since its inception.

If the previous elections were a litmus test for AKP and its promises of economic growth during its Europeanization, there are now signs of a weakening economy, oriental despotism, and isolationism, leading to egregious violations of human rights and virulent attacks on anyone who dares to say anything about Erdogan and his Party; nevertheless, AKP’s rhetoric has lost its luster in its religiosity, suppression of free social media, press, and civic and liberal movements. Except for traditional sectors of the Turkish society and some sectors of the urban middle who have benefited from a bubble economy, the rest of the Turkish society is now disillusioned.

AKP has been relentlessly targeting the People’s Democratic Party for obvious reasons. Many conservative Kurds and former AKP supporters and even many of the pro-government village guards have now turned away from the AKP and its self-serving and deceitful policies, and corruption. They have seen that the Kurdish question remains unresolved; the peace process fruitless; that the massacre at Roboski is still being covered up; that AKP resorted to everything possible to stop the US from helping Kurds in their fight against the Islamic State as the Turkish military and intelligence continued to provide overt and covert logistic support to the demonic forces of ISIS in their savage attack on the people of Kobani.

AKP is using defamatory and slanderous Islamo-nationalist campaign against the HDP and other opposition parties manifested in both the President’s and the Prime Minister’s diatribes and hate speech. Over 100 people have been charged for insulting Erdogan. Critics are intimidated and face unfounded prosecutions. A group of Turkish intellectuals have issued a declaration warning against such hate speech and stressing the need for fair and free election campaigns for all sides. Political opponents both legal and illegal are labeled as “gangs”. Even the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilichdroglu has announced that the AKP is bent on undermining and discrediting the HDP’s leader and co-chair, Demirtash. The Prime Minister just recently slandered Demirtash for defending the right to protest in Taqsim Square on May 1. Demirtash had stated, “ It is Taqsim Square in Istanbul which to the workers means what the city of Jerusalem means to the Jews, and what the Kaaba means to Muslims.” The Prime Minister, Davutoglu, in response accused Demirtash of being an apostate and not worthy of his first name (Salahuddin, the legendary Kurdish warrior who set Jerusalem free from the Crusaders) for not defending Erdogan’s recent call for “the Muslim invasion of Jerusalem”. In dismissing the historic and political significance of Taqsim in political and civic movements in Turkey, the Prime Minister re-voices Erodgan’s religious proclamation that “Jerusalem is our home and we are all Jerusalem.” Yet another example of defamatory politics masqueraded as election campaign by the Prime Minister is that Demirtash “had eaten bacon in Cologne”.

In addition to these mockeries and violations of basic human rights, during the past decade, the judiciary, the armed and security forces under AKP have curbed and rolled back democratic and civic gains in Turkey and threatened the Kurdish political movement and the growing popularity of the HDP. Stealth operations have been funded against the HDP including the recent bombings in Mersin and Adana. The HDP’s provincial co-chair Selman Gunbat has charged that the President and Prime Minster and party officers are responsible for the recent attack on their centers. The AKP uses state resources to favor the AKP’s own candidates against opposition parties. A Religious Affairs Directorate is lavishly given a luxurious car while the top Imam is offered a private jet as he is being assigned to be the leader of the Moslem world while at the same time a New York veteran journalist and expert on Turkey, Stephen Kinzer, is denied Turkish honorary citizenship for writing a critical article about Erodgan. All critical commentaries and editorials, local and international, are viciously attacked by Erodgan. He has particularly singled out New York Times by calling the paper’s reporters “paid charlatans” for reporting on the suppression of press freedom in Turkey.

The AKP and HDP have come head to head in the current elections in a race that is between an Islamist autocracy and democracy. The AKP’s politics of duplicity, rampant corruption and their crackdowns on democratic movements reveal a shift to an Islmo-nationalist agenda. Apprehensive of the HDP’s political ascendancy and the possibility of crossing the 10% threshold, the AKP is resorting to coercive and defamatory practices to undermine it. To the AKP’s dismay, the HDP’s platform has resonated with many enlightening efforts and civic and community engagements in an effort to institutionalize democratic values. The HDP deserves global support as it continues to use the electoral campaigns for community wide participation in understanding and building a critically democratic process. The HDP with other opposition parties can show the world how AKP is in violation of internationally recognized human rights, is trampling the principles of democracy through its use of fraud, frivolous accusations, political machinations and acts of violence against its critics; they would be justified in calling for international monitoring of the elections.

The HDP deserves support as it has taken great strides in educating Kurds and Turks about the social, political, and economic foundations of a genuine democracy through informed dialogue. It has opened the Pandora’s box of troubles, unresolved issues of minorities, and unanswered questions that the AKP has repeatedly promised but failed to fulfill, the most important of which are ethno-cultural rights and the peace process, which will never succeed without political representation. The outcome of previous elections is informing the June elections that are only days away, with the only difference that, this time, if the AKP wins, Turkey will be caught in the grips of a new autocracy.

Dr. Amir Sharifi – Director of Kurdish Human Rights Advocacy Groups Los Angeles (KHRAG)

One Response to The Race Between HDP and AKP: Political Implications of June Elections in Turkey
  1. Yasin Aziz
    June 3, 2015 | 21:11

    When Ourdogan first time won the election, a journalist chased him to ask, ‘Are you going to apply democracy now, as you have won?’ and his reply, he said, ‘Democracy is only the vehicle to reach power.’ Ataturk mentality cannot be reformed and democratized by many Turkish leaders. They are dreaming of rebuilding the stone age Ottoman Empire, how any hope for democracy and piece process can be fulfilled? Election is only a theater for running a show.

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