The HDP from June 7 to November 1

*Source: Reuters/T. Berkin ©

The HDP from June 7 to November 1

Abstract

The biggest question of the June 7 elections was whether the Halkların Demokratik Partisi (People’s Democratic Party) (HDP) could pass the 10% electoral threshold or not. This was the case as the votes of the HDP would directly influence many issues varying from the new constitution to the resolution process.  The HDP gained a great success. The party gathered 13% of the votes and gained significant power in the parliament by obtaining 80 seats.

There were many factors triggering the HDP’s election victory. Among them the most important one was the will to take the Kurdish issue out of its violent loop. The core constituency thought if the HDP became powerful in the parliament then politics would step in and the weapons would retreat. However, these expectations were not realised as the Partiya Karkerên Kurdistani (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) (PKK) returned to its armed conflict strategy in the wake of the elections. The return of the violence narrowed down the political area of the HDP and led to a significant decline in their votes.

Although the HDP lost a considerable amount of their votes in the meantime from June to November, they still passed the threshold. The voters warned the HDP, but they also ensured their entry into the parliament. This may be analysed as such that voters place importance on open political channels regarding the Kurdish issue and on the HDP.  It is for the HDP to take these messages into consideration and defend the political area more strongly.

***

The June 7 elections had two important and correlated results for Turkey: First, the single-party government of the Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party) (AKP) which had existed since 2002, ended. The second one was whether the Halkların Demokratik Partisi (People’s Democratic Party) (HDP) would pass the 10% electoral threshold. On June 7, the HDP gained 6,058,489 votes and reached 13.12% and gained a great victory.[1] With 80 seats in the parliament, the HDP had outnumbered the Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi (Nationalist Movement Party) (MHP) and became the third most powerful party in the parliament.[2]

After June 7, the political parties could not form a coalition government. For this reason, according to the relevant clauses of the constitution, it was decided to call early elections on November 1. The majority of the political analysts and public opinion polls claimed that the results would not differ much within this short period between the elections. There could be small changes affecting 1-2 points but a significant difference was not expected in general. The AKP was on the verge of coming to power alone, but Turkey should have been preparing for a coalition.

However, when the results were announced on November 1, a quite different picture emerged. The AKP made a huge leap forward that even their executives probably did not expect and similar to the 2011 results they reached 50% (49.50%). In the parliament, they gained 317 of the 550 seats and became the ‘ruling party.’ The AKP was far and away the winner of the elections.[3]  As for the defeated: Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (Republican People’s Party) (CHP) made no progress. The MHP and the HDP could not protect their tendency to increase from five months before and lost a considerable amount of votes. Thereby all the opposition parties can be regarded as ‘defeated.’

HDP’s Loss

After the elections, one of the most debated topics was the changing performance of the HDP. On November 1, the HDP gained 5,144,085 votes retreating to 10.76% and 59 seats in the parliament.[4]

In all of the polls made before the elections, it was foreseen that the HDP would preserve its position from June 7. The HDP were facing some troubles on its way to the November 1 elections. A period of armed conflict began, and they had not fulfilled their promise of disarming the Partiya Karkerên Kurdistani (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) (PKK). It was certain that these would trouble the HDP.

However, after all, the HDP also had some advantages. First of all, its electoral constituency was determined. There was a strong belief among Kurds that it was Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP who were responsible for the conflict.  The AKP could not form a strong discourse to appeal to Kurds and again their slate was not very bright. In addition, during the period of armed conflict, some social incidents (Kurds being attacked in the west) and the state practices (the unlawful actions of the security forces like dragging the corpses of the members of the PKK on the streets at Cizre and Varto; long-lasting curfews at districts like Nusaybin, Cizre, Silvan, etc.) also strengthened the solidarity among Kurds. With this in mind, it was predicted that the votes of the HDP would not be pulled down from where it reached on June 7.

However, this was not realised. The HDP lost a significant amount of their votes. Compared to the June 7 elections the HDP lost 2.4 points of the votes and the party lost 15.09% (914,381) of their voters. They lost 25% of their deputies, their number of seats in the parliament retreating from 80 to 59.[5]

There is a consensus regarding this loss. Many commentators agree that, the main reason of this loss is the conflict strategy carried out by the PKK.  According to this, if the PKK had not implemented a conflict strategy after June 7, if its youth had not dug trenches, if they had not declared self-governance and if the war had not been carried to the cities, the HDP could have expanded its ground of vote with the wind backing them. The absence of an effective opposition in Turkey had given the HDP this opportunity. However, as conflicts started all over again and since the HDP could not prevent them, this opportunity was missed. Some figures within the party share a similar analysis. For instance, Diyarbakır MP Altan Tan believes that the attitude of the PKK caused a great damage on the HDP.  In an interview with Tan one month before the elections, he had explained his thoughts very clearly:

84.2% of the Kurdish people do not embrace the trenches, nor the position they named as people’s revolutionary war. Revolution despite people is not possible. The result of vandalising, the result obtained by dismaying half of people is not peace. It is a Pyrrhic victory, which is not a victory at all.[6]

After the elections, Tan insisted on his ideas, underlining the preferences of the PKK as the reasons of HDP’s fall:

The policy of the Yurtsever Devrimci Gençlik Hareketi (Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement) (YDG-H) of the PKK carrying the war to city centres, the attitude of them reducing the self-governance to trenches and self-defence were wrong. People reacted to these since day one. They insisted on this mistake, though. The power of the HDP did not suffice to prevent it. All in all, the PKK does not control the HDP. Also, the AKP and the state have used all means of repression, detention, and violence towards the HDP. The PKK did not call out ‘I am not in your game of war.’ The HDP stated that we all wanted democratic autonomy but could not convince the PKK that this could not be done by only declaring it but by a struggle demanding construction, time and accumulation. Some of our friends told this recurrently and sincerely, but the perception in the society stayed the same.[7]

However, senior executives in the party hardly agree with him. There are two important aspects in statements made by Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, the co-chairs of the party: First one is that they have analysed the results focusing on exterior factors (e.g. AKP’s attack) rather than themselves.[8] The other one is that they have declared what the PKK had done after June 7 had no effect on the loss of votes.[9] But this explanation model neither offers any solutions nor reflects the truth. It is a typical behaviour of politicians in Turkey to blame others without a self-criticism –yet without much help thus far.

Still, it is also not true that the politics of conflict has not harmed the HDP. Numbers tell the opposite. The HDP have lost power both in the West and in the East. For example, while in İstanbul the HDP had received 1,069,604 votes in June 7; in the November election, it got only 948,701 votes. In other words, the HDP lost 120,903 votes only in İstanbul.[10] The HDP had reached to 46.2% in the Southeast, and 45.5% in the Eastern Anatolia on June 7. On November 1, on the other hand, rates decreased to 39% in the Southeast, and 38.4% in the Eastern Anatolia.[11] Examining the areas that intense conflicts took place, it is again seen that vote rates have decreased.[12]

Therefore, first of all, the HDP must admit that conflicts have caused them to lose. It is clearly seen that the middle classes and those who used to vote for the AKP before and changed their direction towards the HDP on June 7, do not accept the strategy of conflict. The HDP has to see this fact and produce alternative ways out. Otherwise, in the sociological condition where the middle class and urbanisation are expanding, politics based on conflict gets HDP lose ground.

HDP’s Gain

As the HDP decreased its votes from 13.1% to 10.7% in only five months, people naturally focused on losses. However, there is an important issue not to be ignored here: mainstream Kurdish politics represented in the HDP today, usually was around 5-7% on the voting scale in elections led by different parties and independent candidates from 1991 to 2015. On June 7, they doubled their votes and increased their potential to 13%, then decreased to 10% on November 1. This means that they lost three of the six points they gained but maintained another three.

This is extremely important. Although the HDP lost some of their votes in the Eastern and Southern Anatolia, it maintained its dominance in those areas. Voters, by holding the HDP over the electoral threshold, have showed their demand for the Kurdish issue to be solved politically and their will for the HDP to be a factor in this solution. This is an important opportunity for both Turkey and the HDP. While Turkey, using this chance, may solve her ancient problem in the parliament; the HDP, defending its political ground, taking initiatives and risks, may turn into a real political power.

Associate Professor Vahap Çoşkun, Dicle University, Faculty of Law

Please cite this publication as follows:

Çoşkun, V. (December, 2015), “The HDP from June 7 to November 1” Vol. IV, Issue 12, pp.6-12, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (Research Turkey), London, Research Turkey (http://researchturkey.org/XXXX)

Endnotes

[1] Results of Legislative Elections Including Domestic, Foreign and Customs Ballot Boxes 96-D, [Accessed on 30 November 2015], Available at:

http://www.ysk.gov.tr/ysk/content/conn/YSKUCM/path/Contribution Folders/SecmenIslemleri/Secimler/2015MV/D.pdf

[2] Results of 25th Legislative Elections, 96-E, [Accessed on 30 November 2015], Available at:

http://www.ysk.gov.tr/ysk/content/conn/YSKUCM/path/Contribution Folders/SecmenIslemleri/Secimler/2015MV/E.pdf

[3] Results of Legislative Elections Including Domestic, Foreign and Customs Ballot Boxes, 96-D, [Accessed on 30 November 2015], Available at:

http://www.ysk.gov.tr/ysk/content/conn/YSKUCM/path/Contribution Folders/SecmenIslemleri/Secimler/2015MVES/96-D.pdf

[4] Results of Legislative Elections Including Domestic, Foreign and Customs Ballot Boxes, 96-D, [Accessed on 30 November 2015], Available at:

http://www.ysk.gov.tr/ysk/content/conn/YSKUCM/path/Contribution Folders/SecmenIslemleri/Secimler/2015MVES/96-D.pdf

[5] Results of 25th Legislative Elections, 96-E, [Accessed on 30 November 2015], Available at:

http://www.ysk.gov.tr/ysk/content/conn/YSKUCM/path/Contribution Folders/SecmenIslemleri/Secimler/2015MVES/96-E.pdf

[6] HDP’nin gücü PKK’ye yetmedi. (HDP could not wield power over the PKK). [Accessed on 30 November 2015], Available at:  http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/koseyazisi/410595/_HDP__nin_gucu_PKK__ye_yetmedi_.html

[7] HDP’nin gücü PKK’ye yetmedi. (HDP could not wield power over PKK). [Accessed on 30 November 2015], Available at:

http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/koseyazisi/410595/_HDP__nin_gucu_PKK__ye_yetmedi_.html

[8] Statements regarding November 1 elections by Demirtaş. [Accessed on 30 November 2015], Available at: http://www.posta.com.tr/siyaset/HaberDetay/Demirtas-tan-1-Kasim-secimleri-aciklamasi.htm?ArticleID=309100

[9] Self-governance got HDP win. [Accessed on 30 November 2015], Available at: http://www.ensonhaber.com/figen-yuksekdag-ozyonetimler-hdpye-kazandirdi-2015-11-04.html

[10] Berkan, İsmet; Hürriyet (3.11.2015). [Accessed on 30 November 2015], Available at: http://sosyal.hurriyet.com.tr/yazar/ismet-berkan_386/ak-partiden-kuskunler-sp-bbp-ve-digerler-hdp-ve-mhpden-kopanlar_40009317

[11] For the table showing the loss in the area, see Akyol, Taha; Hürriyet (4.11.2015). [Accessed on 30 November 2015], Available at:

http://sosyal.hurriyet.com.tr/yazar/taha-akyol_329/hdp-ve-kurtler_40009721

[12] For the table showing the loss of votes in provinces, see Berkan, İsmet; Hürriyet (5.11.2015). [Accessed on 30 November 2015], Available at:

http://sosyal.hurriyet.com.tr/yazar/ismet-berkan_386/secmen-hdpyi-uyardi-cezalandirmadi_40010163

“In 12 provinces where the HDP was the leading party, they lost 269,644 votes! Their votes decreased from 73.69% to 67.11%. The HDP lost 70,000 votes in Diyarbakır, 5,000 in Şırnak, 4,000 in Sur, 2,000 in Bismil, 1,000 in Cizre, where trenches have been dug, conflicts have taken place.” Taha Akyol, Hürriyet (06.11.2015). [Accessed on 30 November 2015], Available at:

http://sosyal.hurriyet.com.tr/yazar/taha-akyol_329/teror-ve-secmen_40010533

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