An HDP surprise around the corner

As most are aware, the critical question surrounding the June 7 general election is whether or not the Peoplesand’ Democratic Party (HDP) will overcome the anti-democratic 10 percent election threshold. The HDP has emerged onto the political stage asserting that it is, unlike the Kurdish parties that came before it, a party for all of Turkey. In terms of actually displaying this in any practical sense though, the party has not been so successful. It is unclear how much this lack of success is rooted in its own mistakes as opposed to the current difficult conditions and is a debate best left for another day. What is certain, however, is that backed by its assertions of being a party of the Turkish Republic, the HDP has — for the first time ever — become this weighty. It should be noted that HDP Co-chair Selahattin Demirtaiand’s leadership has played a great role in the rise of this party. Demirtaiand’s political stance is not just restricted to matters concerning Kurds and his style of addressing the discomfort caused by the seemingly arbitrary leadership ways of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is one that appeals to a variety of factions of Turkish citizens. Theoretically, another person from the ranks of the HDP could have also captured the attention of the country in the way Demirtai has. But leadership requires a person to use language that everyone can understand and to be persuasive and believable at the same time. It is quite clear that Demirtaiand’s ability to make clever jokes about even the toughest of topics or his on-target comments about issues occupying the thoughts of the nation are all related to his personality. In fact, he seems to bear the profile of the kind of politician Turkey has longed for for a long time now. He doesnand’t yell, bluster or radiate anger and insults he doesnand’t appear to count on tension, division or polarization to boost himself. All of which is why we are suddenly seeing the HDP being viewed by circles outside of the Kurds as a party to watch, a party about which there is curiosity, a party with fans. In short, a party set to help fill a vacuum in our political spectrum. Right now, there are many in Turkey who believe it is only the HDP and Demirtai that can nip President Erdoganand’s dictatorial dreams in the bud. The first real test of the HDPand’s claims to being a party for all of Turkey came last year during the presidential election. In that round of voting, Demirtai picked up nearly 10 percent of the vote. In the end though, there is little question that by far the most important test of the HDPand’s growing clout comes with the June 7 general election. Up until now, the HDP has run a very successful campaign, despite limited funds. They have managed, in the process, to change many peopleand’s perceptions of them as being solely a and”Kurdish party.and” They have also made it clear that they have a serious stake in helping to solve Turkeyand’s problems. If the HDP makes it over the 10 percent election threshold, this has enormous implications, not only for the HDP itself, but for Turkeyand’s political future. If the HDP does not overcome the threshold, it means the AKP will be able to get some 50-60 deputies of its own into Parliament who didnand’t actually win. This, in turn, will give Erdogan the real opportunity to bring about his dreams of a and”Turkish-type presidency.and” If, on the other hand, the HDP does make it over the 10 percent barrier, this could mean the ruling party will not only be unable to alter the Constitution as it pleases, but also possibly falling from power as well. In order for the HDP to make it over the electoral threshold, itand’ll have to pick up votes from numerous factions, in particular from voters who cast their ballots for the AKP in previous elections. In the meantime, it is a fact that most public polls are showing clearly that the AKP and Erdoganand’s problematic and contradictory stances towards the Kurdish problems in Turkey are causing Kurdish voters to quickly back away from the AKP and edge towards the HDP. Of course, observations made onsite in the southeastern region of Turkey are more helpful in terms of giving a real sense of the direction things are taking. This is why I headed to the region and came away with a much better idea of the reality on the ground there, which is that there is a much more serious sense of the growing power of both Demirtai and the HDP that one gets in Istanbul. One result is that the same conservative, nationalist voters that the AKP tends to view as birds in the hand are actually starting to debate seriously whether or not to vote for the HDP. This trend can be sensed even in cities like Elazii, Malatya and Erzurum, which have traditionally put forward conservative, nationalist deputies. More observations on this front tomorrow, as Turkey speeds towards the election.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman