Op­po­si­tion leader ac­cuses Er­do­gan of seek­ing a ‘con­sti­tu­tional dic­ta­tor­ship’

‘At­mos­phere of fear’ hurt HDP elec­tion re-run

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

ANKARA: The head of Turkey’s pro-Kur­dish op­po­si­tion ac­cused Pres­i­dent Tayyip Er­do­gan of try­ing to cre­ate a “con­sti­tu­tional dic­ta­tor­ship” by push­ing for an ex­ec­u­tive pres­i­den­tial sys­tem, and of fos­ter­ing a cli­mate of fear to win an elec­tion land­slide. Se­la­hat­tin Demir­tas, who co-leads the Peo­ples’ Demo­cratic Party (HDP), told Reuters he be­lieved the gov­ern­ment could call a ref­er­en­dum as soon as this time next year on a new con­sti­tu­tion that would trans­form what has been a largely cer­e­mo­nial pres­i­dency.

A se­nior mem­ber of the AK Party, which Er­do­gan founded, de­nied the charges of fear mon­ger­ing, say­ing that on the con­trary it had suf­fered while try­ing to cam­paign in the pre­dom­i­nantly Kur­dish south­east of Turkey. In the sec­ond elec­tion to be held this year, the AKP last week re­gained the par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity which it lost in June, win­ning 317 of 550 seats - only 13 short of the num­ber needed to call such a ref­er­en­dum. Demir­tas stressed the HDP would op­pose the plan of putting more power in the hands of the pres­i­dency, which Er­do­gan has held since step­ping up from the prime min­is­ter­ship last year.

“We would have to lose our minds to agree to this,” he said in an in­ter­view con­ducted on Sun­day. “Er­do­gan’s plan for the ex­ec­u­tive pres­i­den­tial sys­tem is not a model for an ex­ec­u­tive pres­i­dency but one-man rule, a con­sti­tu­tional dic­ta­tor­ship that merges all author­ity into a sin­gle hand.” Er­do­gan’s spokesman said af­ter the elec­tion on Nov. 1 that an is­sue such as chang­ing the pres­i­den­tial sys­tem couldn’t be de­cided with­out the na­tion’s sup­port and if a ref­er­en­dum were needed, then one would be held. Speak­ing at the HDP head­quar­ters, Demir­tas said next sum­mer might be too early for a ref­er­en­dum but it could hap­pen as soon as au­tumn 2016.

Fear at­mos­phere

The HDP stunned pun­dits and poll­sters in June when it won more than 13 per­cent of the vote, reach­ing be­yond its Kur­dish base to sec­u­lar left­ists and oth­ers put off by years of rule by Er­do­gan and the AKP. But in the re-run, held af­ter coali­tion ne­go­ti­a­tions failed, it barely scraped over the 10 per­cent thresh­old re­quired to en­ter par­lia­ment, tak­ing 59 seats, or 21 fewer than in June. The rise in AKP sup­port ap­peared to have been mo­ti­vated by re­newed fight­ing in the south­east be­tween the se­cu­rity forces and Kur­dis­tan Work­ers Party (PKK) mil­i­tants af­ter a cease­fire col­lapsed in July. Hun­dreds have since died. Con­ser­va­tive Kurds and lib­eral Turks who blame the PKK for the un­rest turned their backs on the HDP.

Demir­tas blamed an at­mos­phere cre­ated by the “pres­i­den­tial palace” for the fall in sup­port for his party. “In or­der to keep the HDP un­der the thresh­old, the Palace de­cided on a war cam­paign that put at­tacks against our party in the cen­tre,” he said. “The AK Party and the Palace saw it was pos­si­ble to in­crease their sup­port by frightening peo­ple. They are go­ing to use it more of­ten now, as they saw that it ac­tu­ally worked.” Sui­cide bombers have tar­geted HDP sym­pa­thiz­ers twice since the June elec­tion, in­clud­ing in Ankara last month when more than 100 peo­ple were killed in Turkey’s dead­li­est such at­tack.

AKP Deputy Chair­man Ay­han Se­fer Us­tun re­jected the ac­cu­sa­tions from Demir­tas, say­ing his party’s sup­port­ers had been threat­ened in Kur­dish ar­eas be­fore the elec­tion. “It’s not we who cre­ated the at­mos­phere of fear, but the PKK and the groups linked to it. The HDP is the one who ben­e­fits from such an at­mos­phere,” he told Reuters. “The AK Party could not run an elec­tion cam­paign in the south­east due to this at­mos­phere.” Er­do­gan, who will host a G20 sum­mit in a week’s time, has said the elec­tion out­come was a vote for sta­bil­ity and a mes­sage to the PKK and its al­lies that vi­o­lence could not co­ex­ist with democ­racy.

With Pres­i­dent Barack Obama ex­pected to at­tend, Wash­ing­ton has said it is deeply con­cerned that Turk­ish me­dia and jour­nal­ists were sub­ject to pres­sure dur­ing the cam­paign. Er­do­gan has con­sis­tently por­trayed crit­i­cism of his lead­er­ship as part of a for­eign-backed ef­fort to be­lit­tle him and un­der­mine Turkey’s in­flu­ence in the re­gion. Demir­tas said he ex­pected the gov­ern­ment would even­tu­ally re­turn to peace talks with the PKK. “The ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Turkey and the PKK will even­tu­ally restart, you can’t keep fight­ing for­ever,” he said. “I can’t name the ex­act date but I think par­ties will re­turn to the peace process in the medium term.”

Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.