HDP on cusp of his­tory in Turkey’s elec­tions but price of fail­ure re­mains high

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS - By Bash­dar Pusho Is­maeel

For many years, the Kurds suf­fered a choice of the Kur­dis­tan Work­ers Party’s (PKK) armed strug­gle and the re­pres­sive poli­cies of suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments. For the dozens of Kur­dish po­lit­i­cal par­ties, al­le­ga­tions of been a voice of the PKK and Turkey’s harsh se­cu­rity laws, saw them quickly shut down.

Now ahead of his­toric gen­eral elec­tions on 7th June, the Kurds lat­est po­lit­i­cal in­car­na­tion, the Peo­ples’ Demo­cratic Party (HDP) led by Se­la­hat­tin Demir­taş, not only strives to pass the elu­sive 10 per­cent elec­tion thresh­old that has so of­ten blighted Kur­dish par­ties but ex­tend its sup­port base to be­come a Turk­ish party that is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of a wide range of groups and not just Kurds.

HDP’s quest to en­ter par­lia­ment as a party and not via the tra­di­tional in­de­pen­dent can­di­date route, is seen by many as a gam­ble but it also demon­strates the grow­ing con­fi­dence of the party.

Even as Kurds rep­re­sent a large sec­tion of the pop­u­la­tion, the 10% thresh­old has been hard to breach. The rul­ing Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Party (AKP) have worked ef­fec­tively to split the Kur­dish vote in pre­vi­ous elec­tions, es­pe­cially from Is­lamist and con­ser­va­tive cir­cles.

Then there are those Kurds who were greatly dis­cour­aged by vot­ing for any Kur­dish party who would ul­ti­mately fail to break the thresh­old and thus lose their votes and voice.

Cou­ple with Kur­dish fall­out over Ankara’s stance on the strug­gle of the Syr­ian Kur­dish town of Kobane un­der a fierce Is­lamic State (IS) on­slaught, the stalling of the Kur­dish peace process, HDP’s broader man­i­festo and the prospect that HDP will en­ter par­lia­ment, the Kur­dish voter base has be­come rich pick­ings.

Amidst the back­drop of the cam­paign to be­come a truly Turk­ish party, an­other key HDP battle ground has been the West of Turkey. The fo­cus has been on dis­play­ing an im­age of a lib­er­tar­ian left­ist party and cap­i­tal­iz­ing on dis­af­fected and dis­en­fran­chised vot­ers grow­ing un­easy with the AKP or na­tion­al­ist al­ter­na­tives, es­pe­cially ap­peal­ing to Gezi pro­tes­tors.

Demir­taş 9.7% of the vote in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tions is deemed as a mea­sure that HDP in­flu­ence is grow­ing.

As a party of the voice of marginal­ized, HDP has an ap­peal and a larger elec­torate in­clud­ing that of nu­mer- ous other mi­nori­ties. It is an al­ter­na­tive to the Ke­mal­ist Repub­li­can Peo­ple’s Party (CHP) or the Rightwing Na­tion­al­ist Move­ment Party (MHP), but the key test is whether it can must enough of th­ese non-Kur­dish votes, even if it suc­cess­fully nav­i­gates the 10% thresh­old.

If it re­mains a Kur­dish voice and a party of the Kur­dish re­gion, then it will strug­gle to es­cape the PKK stigma.

Such is the sig­nif­i­cance that the 10% of HDP vote may bring that the elec­tion cam­paign has pit­ted them in con­stant con­fronta­tion with the AKP.

Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, who has made no se­cret of his de­sire to re­write the con­sti­tu­tion af­ter the elec­tions, has traded fre­quent harsh rhetoric with Demir­taş. At the same time, Demir­taş has been equally clear that once in par­lia­ment he will be an ob­sta­cle to AKP goals and poli­cies.

Then there are the bomb­ings of HDP of­fices in May and in re­cent days a deadly dou­ble bomb­ing at a HDP rally in Di­yarbakir that killed or wounded dozens.

The bomb­ings are a re­minder of the na­tion­al­ist camps in Turkey that aim stir vi­o­lence and keep the south-eastern ques­tion as an armed strug­gle cal­cu­lus, and then there are Kurds who are skep­ti­cal at the prospects of true peace and Kur­dish rights through par­lia­ment.

If the HDP does break­through the thresh­old, it would em­power their po­si­tion as in­ter­locu­tors in the peace-process. It will also give them a true plat­form to ex­tend their gains.

On the flip side, if HDP fails to achieve this tar­get, there are sig­nif­i­cant reper­cus­sions. Mil­lions of votes would have lost their voice in par­lia­ment lead­ing to fur­ther un­rest, the Kur­dish peace process may be­come side­lined or di­luted and HDP would see their seats giv­ing to the next largest party, most likely the AKP.

The AKP have vowed that the peace process will pur­sue re­gard­less of the HDP in par­lia­ment. But whether it’s a change in con­sti­tu­tion or peace with the PKK, with­out op­po­si­tion in par­lia­ment, the AKP will have an unhindered path.

In ei­ther case, AKP is likely to muster a strong por­tion of the vote again and this will in­crease frac­tures with op­pos­ing po­lit­i­cal and ide­o­log­i­cal camps.

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