With the HDP I Am Embracing My Past: Celal Doğan Interview


Celal Doğan

KT interview:

Celal Doğan is number one on the HDP’s list of candidates in the city of Gazientep standing for election to the Turkish parliament. He is a former CHP mayor of the city. If the HDP crosses the 10% threshold nationally, it’s likely that he will become a HDP MP.

Q. It seems likely that the HDP vote will go up compared to last year. What is the reason for the HDP’s increasing support?

Celal Doğan: The HDP is a newly organised party and previously its candidates have not entered the parliament as a party but as independents. Its potential was about 4 or 5 per cent. Since then other political and leftist factions have gathered under the HDP roof. It has embraced the whole country and become ‘Turkified’. Also the peace process is of critical importance for the Kurdish population who feel loyal to the representatives of peace. Another factor is the political performance by our party leader Demirtas. All these are causes of the HDP’s rise.

Q. You were Mayor of Gazientep for 15 years (1989-2004) as a member of the CHP, which is part of the Turkish political establishment. What made you come back into politics and support a party that president Erdogan is denouncing as a front for terrorists?

Celal Doğan: I am from the 1968 youth generation. Our generation led the peasants, working classes and peoples of Turkey. However, we weren’t able to do such politics with the military and repressive political regimes. It was banned and we had to orient to the CHP to realise political purposes.

The contribution of the CHP to the modernisation of Turkey cannot be denied although it couldn’t be a class party or embrace labour and different ethnicities. This is not a criticism – the party’s nature and organisation did not allow this.

The HDP has emerged as a party embracing all the oppressed, championing the cultural rights of different identities, including LGBT people. Being affiliated with the HDP has given me the opportunity to embrace my own past.

It doesn’t matter what Erdogan says. He doesn’t know who is a friend and who is a terrorist. Four years ago he was negotiating with the party he is calling terrorist.

The HDP is the only party that can prevent the development of a presidential system. He can use any label. Yesterday he was calling Bashar Assad ‘my friend’ and now he is calling him his foe. He will change his ideas whenever it suits him.

Q: There are fears of electoral fraud. Will the HDP be allowed to cross the 10% threshold?

Celal Doğan: The HDP could get between 11 and 13 per cent of the vote – this seems to be the case. We are taking our measures to prevent fraud. If this political power has 10 measures for fraud we will take measures to counter them. However, if they discover an eleventh method, maybe we won’t be ready for it. They are very talented and able at this.

Q: What will happen if it is announced that the HDP has got, say, 9.8 per cent and fraud is widely suspected?

Celal Doğan: If it is obvious there has been fraud, of course we will use every means to challenge this, using our democratic rights and there will be a mass social reaction.

It would mean about 70 more MPs joining the AKP in parliament. I don’t think they would be able to sit in the parliament comfortably. I think there would soon be another election.

Of course we will assume democratic attitudes. We are not in a 100 metres race but a marathon, but we will react to any corruption, fraud and unjust action.

Q: If the HDP passes the threshold and gets into the parliament, what are its priorities for solving the Kurdish issue?

Celal Doğan: Our first priority is a civic constitution. The constitution is inherited from  Kenan Evren’s fascist coup. The laws for regulating elections and the National Security Council were established after the military coup of 1980. The current constitution is a product of the military. We need a civic constitution giving equal citizenship and cultural rights for all the people.

Q: If you get elected, what do you want to achieve in parliament?

Celal Doğan: I am involved as a party member. I would act on the party’s politics, principles and ideals. There are different questions challenging the politics of the country and the city of Gazientep. One can make suggestions. There are lots of problems – for example with the judicial system and the election laws – but I will be acting as a party member, helping it to realise its ideals.

Celal Doğan spoke to John Hunt.

Translation by Pinar Şenoğuz.

 AFTERNOTE: Celal Doğan was elected to parliament on 7 June 2015.

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