Kurds Do Not Want the Solution Process to be Sacrificed for Presidentialism
Kurds Do Not Want the Solution Process to be Sacrificed for Presidentialism
In the Eastern and the South-eastern Regions of Turkey the parties that receive most of the votes are the Halkların Demokratik Partisi (Peoples’ Democratic Party) (HDP) and the Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party) (AK Party). The solution process which started after a 30-year conflict created a positive atmosphere in the region. The AK Party’s different approach to the Kurdish problem from other parties and the fact that they initiated the solution process is a principal factor in their gain of strength in the region. The HDP’s passing of the electoral threshold is seen very important both for the representation of Kurdish people in the parliament and for the continuation of the solution process. The aim of this article is to address the impact of solution process on voting tendencies in Diyarbakır and the region in the elections.
The peace and solution process, which was announced in the Newroz of Diyarbakır in 2013 with the call of Abdullah Öcalan, –the imprisoned founder and leader of the Partiya Karkerên Kurdistani (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) (PKK)–, and with initiatives of the government. The solution process has been experiencing a bottleneck in the process of forthcoming general elections of 7th June. It is possible to regard the discontent of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan towards the message of Öcalan in the Newroz of 2015, as the starting point of this.
To remind briefly, the government expected an invitation for a farewell to guns from the Newroz message, but contrary to this, in the letter Öcalan was linking the PKK’s cease-fire to the steps that the government would take. As it can be remembered, on the same day, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave a speech as a response to Öcalan’s letter and he said that he did approve neither the statement in Dolmabahçe nor the monitoring committee. Despite the on-going İmralı negotiations, there is no progress reflected in public as to any positive step taken concerning the process. Contrarily, the explanations from both sides suggest that the process has been frozen.
The peace process, which had been started for the cessation of the armed conflict and for the solution of the Kurdish problem, seems to be on hold at the moment. Politics are locked up to the elections right now. There is little time left to the general elections of 7th June. The election meetings of political parties are underway across the country. Votes to be cast by 56,617,459 voters within the country and abroad, will define the course of the peace process among many other problems of the country. For the continuation of the peace process, representation of the Halkların Demokratik Partisi (Peoples’ Democratic Party) (HDP) in the parliament is crucial. The Kurdish political movement, which entered the elections with independent candidates in the last two terms, will enter the elections as a party in spite of the 10 % threshold by taking a huge political risk. Remembering the percentage of votes that independent candidates received in the 2011 elections was 6.8%, it can be seen that this decision is risky.
The AK Party aims to get the number they need to be able to change the constitution by themselves for the presidential system. Notably these two parties, the Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (Republican People’s Party) (CHP) and the Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi (Nationalist Movement Party) (MHP) are also in effort to increase their votes from everywhere in Turkey. It is known that voting tendencies differ according to regions in Turkey. Parties’ election manifestos, campaigns and meetings conducted in fields are playing a crucial role on the voting tendencies. However, whilst economic trend is the primary factor in all regions, the Kurdish problem and the solution process are the main determining factors for voting behaviour in the South-eastern region.
The HDP’s passing the Electoral Threshold Seen as the Safeguard of the Solution Process
According to my conversations and interviews with both the public and with prominent opinion leaders of the region in recent months, especially in Diyarbakır, it is possible to say that the tendency for the continuation of the solution process is very high. Both the AK Party and the HDP’s electoral constituency state that peace and solution are going ahead of economic trend. Therefore, it would not be wrong to say that the HDP’s passing of 10% electoral threshold is seen as the safeguard of the continuation of the solution process in the region.
In the Eastern and the South-eastern Anatolia Regions, 107 MPs will be elected in total. Numbers of MPs for each province are as follows: Adıyaman 5, Ağrı 4, Ardahan 2, Bingöl 3, Bitlis 3, Diyarbakır 11, Elazığ 4, Erzincan 2, Erzurum 6, Gaziantep 12, Hakkari 3, Kars 3, Malatya 6, Mardin 6, Muş 3, Siirt 3, Tunceli 2, Şanlıurfa 12, Van 8, Batman 4, Şırnak 4, Iğdır 2.
If the HDP had participated in the elections with independent candidates, they would have had about 40 MPs, but if they pass the threshold, this number is estimated to be 75.
Especially in the Southeast, the other powerful party of the region after the HDP is the AK Party. CHP and MHP show almost no existence. Therefore the equations about the region are built on these two parties.
The Candidates of the AK Party and the HDP in the Context of the Solution Process
The HDP declared that they were now a party of Turkey as a whole and that they sought votes from every part of Turkey with their election manifesto. It is known that the 9.76% of votes that Selahattin Demirtaş, HDP’s co-chair received in the presidential elections was influential in this decision. On that account, names like Selahattin Demirtaş, Sırrı Süreyya Önder, Pervin Buldan, Ertuğrul Kürkçü who are known by the public were nominated as candidates from the western provinces for the general elections.
Many names are not in the list for this term because of the HDP’s two terms rule principle. On the other hand, names like Pervin Buldan, Selahattin Demirtaş, Sırrı Süreyya Önder, Leyla Zana, İdris Baluken who took part in İmralı delegation and who were identified with the solution process, were nominated again in the HDP’s list. Re-nomination of these names can be read as the HDP’s determination for the continuation of the process.
So what do candidates of both the AK Party and the HDP and their election manifestos mean for the solution process?
If we look at some percentages specific to Diyarbakır with a focus on the solution process, it is useful to remind certain data. In the general elections of 2011, in Diyarbakır where there were 866,122 voters, with a turnout of 83.57%, 723,834 voters had cast votes. According to this, the AK Party received 32% with 231,018 votes, the HDP (then the Barış ve Demokrasi Partisi (Peace and Democracy Party) (BDP)), which participated in the elections with independent candidates, received 62% with 461,888 votes.
In the previous election the HDP won six, and the AK Party won five MPs in Diyarbakır. However, the Supreme Electoral Council had cancelled the deputyship of Hatip Dicle who was under arrest for the Koma Civakên Kurdistan (Group of Communities in Kurdistan) (KCK) case at that time, because of his one year eight months of prison sentence: and instead of him, Oya Eronat, who was the AK Party’s sixth candidate there could join the parliament as Diyarbakır’s 11th MP.
Number of registered voters in Diyarbakır for 7th June is 949,859 and the number of MPs to be selected is 11. Which list will voters prefer?
For this, we need to look at the names that parties nominate as candidates. When we look at the AK Party’s list, we see that the names that represent traditional politics are at the top ranks of the list.
At the first place in the list there is Cevdet Yılmaz, the former minister of development. Cevdet Yılmaz is from Bingöl but he is not a much known person throughout the region.
The second place candidate Salim Ensarioğlu is from Dicle district of Diyarbakır. He is a member of a well-known sheikh’s family. He is the uncle of the AK Party Diyarbakır MP, Galip Ensarioğlu. He had participated in the previous elections as an independent candidate and received 18,104 votes. Salim Ensarioğlu, who was an MP for the Doğru Yol Partisi (True Path Party) (DYP) in the 90’s, was also a minister of state in the government of Tansu Çiller. It should be considered to what extent this choice is prioritising the sensibilities of the region, reminding the effect of violence events and unsolved murders which took place in the region in the 90’s, especially in the era of Tansu Çiller government are still fresh in memories.
Seyit Haşim Haşimi, who is in the third place of the list, is from Cizre district of Şırnak. He was an MP in the Refah Partisi (Welfare Party) (RP) and the Fazilet Partisi (Virtue Party) (FP) periods. He is coming from a sheikh’s family like Ensarioğlu. When we look at both candidates, it seems like the AK Party planned to increase their votes in the region by resorting to their references of religion and tribalism.
Oya Eronat, who is in the fourth place in the list, is currently an AK Party deputy from Diyarbakır. As mentioned above, Oya Eronat could join the parliament as a sixth place candidate after the cancellation of deputyship of Hatip Dicle in the 2011 elections.
In the back ranks of the list, in the fifth and the sixth places, we see there are two names from the members of the Committee of Wise People.
Fazıl Hüsnü Erdem, a constitutional law professor at Dicle University could only make it in the fifth, and a former AK Party Diyarbakır deputy Abdurrahman Kurt in the sixth place of the list. Abdurrahman Kurt, who took part in the Committee of Wise ’People’s Eastern Anatolia group, waived his candidacy by expressing his discontent originating from being in the sixth place. Dürdane Yalar, the spouse of the district head of Bağlar, Diyarbakır, replaced him.
It is possible to read the fact that members of the Committee of Wise People, which was the initiative of the solution process, were given last places in the list as a reflection of the approach to the solution process. Therefore it is possible to say that traditional politics prevailed in the Diyarbakır list.
The candidate in the seventh place of the list is the current MP, Ali İhsan Merdanoğlu. He is from one of wealthy families of Bismil, Diyarbakır. Mr. Merdanoğlu is understood to be chosen due to his strength and influence despite the fact that he could not be active during his term as a Diyarbakır MP.
The rest of the candidates are not publicly known people.
When we look at the HDP’s Diyarbakır candidates, five women among 11 candidates are noticeable. Apart from this, İdris Baluken, about whom we hear a lot about in the solution process is on top of the list.
Nursel Aydoğan, who is a current MP and the Turkish origin candidate of the list, is in the second place.
Third place candidate of the HDP in Diyarbakır is Nimetullah Erdoğmuş, who resigned from his post as the mufti of Diyarbakır and became a candidate.
Feleknas Uca, who is a Batman Yazidi, was born in Germany and also served as a German MEP for two terms, is the HDP’s fourth place candidate in Diyarbakır.
The current Diyarbakır MP, Altan Tan, who is known as an Islamist, is this time in the fifth place of the Diyarbakır list of the HDP.
In the sixth place, we see the former mayor of Mardin’s Derik district, Çağlar Demirel. Demirel, when he was a mayor, was arrested in the KCK operations and served three years in prison.
The seventh place candidate of the HDP is Ziya Pir. Pir is the nephew of Kemal Pir of Gümüşhane, who is one of the founding members of the PKK and lost his life during his death fast against the ’prison conditions in the aftermath of the 1980 coup d’état.
The HDP sought alliances with other Kurdish parties before the elections. The Katılımcı Demokrat Parti (Participatory Democratic Party) (KADEP), was founded by Şerafettin Elçi, who has become an independent MP in the 2011 elections and died three years ago, the Devrimci Demokrat Kürt Derneği (Revolutionist Democratic Kurdish Association) (DDKD), the Azadi Movement and the Özgürlük ve Sosyalizm Partisi (Freedom and Socialism Party) (ÖSP) announced that they are going to support the HDP in the election.
Eighth place candidate of the HDP in Diyarbakır is a representative of this alliance, İmam Taşçıer, the president of the DDKD. We could say that the DDKD is the modern day representative of the Kurdish political movement known as the Revolutionist East Culture Associations who were active before the 1980 coup.
Concluding Remarks: Is the Region’s Trust in Erdoğan and the AK Party Diminishing?
I have been a journalist in Diyarbakır for almost 13 years. Hence I have reported very frequently the voting tendencies. As was the case in previous elections, when asked what they thought of the list of candidates, most of the people who say that they voted for the HDP before state they are going to vote for the party rather than the individual candidates. Moreover they express that they believe the party has chosen the suitable, worthy candidates for the people. Hence, rather than who is the first place candidate or the second, every candidate is seen as a representative commissioned with primarily the political solution of primarily the Kurdish issue and the solution of all other problems of the region.
When it comes to the election manifestos, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu prepared the AK Party’s manifesto on his own. The manifesto that was finalised by President Erdoğan’s suggestions did not include the solution process. Prime Minister Davutoğlu later said that ‘there were actually two pages regarding the process but they slipped and got lost on the way to the printer.’ Following reactions, ‘the lost two pages’ were added to the manifesto couple of days later. Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan, on the other hand, said that the ‘the philosophy of the solution process was in the overall manifesto, but this did not actually satisfy the Kurds, who expected something more concrete.
The HDP responded to AK Party’s call for ‘New Turkey’ by its ‘Great Humanity Call.’ Women, youth, children, senior citizens, workers, democracy, human rights and identity were the 12 headings of the manifesto and it did not have a clear emphasis on the peace process. The most concrete point was the promise that the HDP would be loyal to the ‘Dolmabahçe Declaration,’ which was later denounced by President Erdoğan. Dolmabahçe Declaration is actually the major guideline of the peace process road map prepared by Abdullah Öcalan. The HDP resorted to such a policy probably considering the electorate in the West and avoided making strong statements about the peace process. Despite this, the Kurdish electorate know that the Kurdish issue’s solution is encoded in the emphasis on ‘Dolmabahçe.’ Alongside with this the HDP wanted to show everyone that they would like to embrace all sections, belief groups and classes by preserving a moderate approach. Hence the HDP’s threshold challenge will show us whether this embracing discourse received positive reactions from the society or not.
The HDP is now after the CHP and the AK Party’s votes in the Western Turkey. In other words, every vote that the HDP will receive in the West will be coming from primarily the AK Party and other parties’ accounts.
The language that the AK Party used for both in the candidate elections, the election manifesto and the campaigns shows that the party is still keeping a distance from the solution process and naturally from the Kurdish region. There is already a vote potential in the Kurdish region for the AK Party; therefore in this election process, it seems the party will attempt to garner the nationalist and conservative votes from the other regions of Turkey.
On the other hand, the Kurdish region was expecting a concrete promise both from the AK Party and the HDP about the solution of the Kurdish issue and the peace process. The people in the region do not want the peace process to end up like the two pages slipping down from the AK Party manifesto before. It is important to notice while the HDP is trying to be a party that represents Turkey as a whole; there are quite a lot of people who worry about the Kurdish part of it might just slide away.
The election manifestos are not the final words. Although some people claim that the peace process is now a project of the state rather than the government, the wills of the PKK’s leader Abdullah Öcalan and President Erdoğan still play an important role.
Since the election process started, İmralı, where Abdullah Öcalan is imprisoned, has kept silent. The conflict in Ağrı and the increasing military activities in the region show that the process is not doing well. The president who makes critical statements in any trip abroad did not break the habit and made important statements on 29th April, Tuesday, after the Kuwait trip for the solution process.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was different from the other leaders by embracing the issue and saying ‘The Kurdish issue is my problem more than anybody’ in the beginning. However, in the eve of the general elections, the same Erdoğan said: “Saying ‘Kurdish issue’ is discrimination now. The Kurdish issue emerges from the very people who claim that there is a Kurdish issue. There is no Kurdish issue in our country anymore.” This statement frustrates the words of him ten years ago.
For the peace process, President Erdoğan said: “Sometimes they say there are different parts in this issue; who do you think you are, having a part? There is a state in this country. There is not a table that is being sat around. If there were, it would mean the collapse of the state. The state does not lay down its arms and if the terrorists take up arms, then the state will take care of it. That is why the internal security issue is important. The HDP distressed the situation with illegal ways.” Therefore, he claimed that there is no on-going negotiation, which indicates a return to the military means.
Through the recent declarations of President Erdoğan, who once said ‘the Kurdish issue is my problem’ and stressed that he is the architect of the solution process, it seems that the HDP and the hopeful Kurdish region will pay for the fact that there is no concrete progress so far. That is also because of their words against Erdoğan: ‘We will not make you the president (in a presidential system).’
There is an increasing busyness and meetings of politicians with the people in the Kurdish region as there is only very limited time left to the election. Although it is possible to see the HDP candidates almost everywhere; we see that the Diyarbakır AK Party candidate from the first rank, Cevdet Yılmaz, is mostly with people and the local artisans. There are not much signs of the other AK Party candidates in the city but I had a chance to follow a few visits of Cevdet Yılmaz. As far as I follow, the most evident demand of the city residents is the continuation of the peace process.
It is possible to claim that during the Kobane protests, the violent events caused a breaking point. To remind shortly, events aroused in 6-7 October in the protests against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) attacking Kobane, and turned into a conflict between the HDP and the Hür Dava Partisi (Free Cause Party) (Hüda-Par). For the first time after the 1980 coup d’état, a curfew was declared in the region and the military came with tanks to the city centre to ensure the peace. After this event, it is possible to say the interest towards the AK Party has been decreased in the region. Last year on 26th July, President Erdoğan gave a speech in Diyarbakır station square for the presidency election. Despite the fasting time in Ramadan, the attendance was quite high. On 2nd May when Erdoğan visited Diyarbakır for the first time as the president, the attendance and interest in the same square was comparatively lower than the last time. As the speech mostly focused on presidentialism instead of the solution process and indirectly asking for votes, for the AK Party expectations of the people in Diyarbakır were not answered.
Nevertheless, Kurdish people want the continuation of the solution process, which has been damaged by the events in Kobane. Although the HDP looks like a mediator in this process, it is crucial that they pass the threshold. It is not hard to guess the solution process will not continue in a parliament where the Kurdish people are not represented. Therefore in the short term, the key to the solution process seems to be in the hands of the HDP. The people who vote for the HDP, the Hüda-Par and other parties in the region also support the continuation of the process. Thus, almost everybody expects the process not to be sacrificed to presidentialism; and whoever wins the elections, the winner to be the solution and peace. Especially when the Middle East is such complicated, the possibility of a breakdown of the solution process and new battles with the PKK, is not only a loss for the region but to whole Turkey.
Hatice Kamer, Journalist
Please cite this publication as follows:
Kamer, H. (May, 2015), “Kurds Do Not Want the Solution Process to be Sacrificed for Presidentialism”, Vol. IV, Issue 5, pp.81-91, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, Research Turkey. (http://researchturkey.org/?p=8945)
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