BERIL – The new phase of the process

The new phase of the processThe Kurdistan Workersand#39 Party (PKK) has finally reached a decision to abandon military methods. Though it is unclear whether every Kurdish group will accept and implement the change, this is undeniably a turning point for Turkey.

This is a nuanced decision, but as the general elections approach, we have to admit that this has a lot to do with the elections. The Kurdish movement would probably not have reached such a decision if we werenand#39t in the middle of an electoral campaign or if the governing party wasnand#39t hoping to get a qualified majority in Parliament.

There is an essential sociological truth about Turkey: People are influenced by either conservative ideology or the Kurdish political movement. Moreover, these two currents cannot be assessed from just a national perspective — they are directly exposed to international developments and, in return, their evolution in Turkey has an impact on international events.

If Turkey adopts a more andldquoIslamistandrdquo policy, it will be harder to resolve the Kurdish question and Turkeyand#39s relations with the West will suffer If it adopts a line too close to the Kurdish movement, its relations with many Middle Eastern countries will deteriorate. Every political decision will have a number of serious consequences, some of them quite unpredictable.

There is a belief in Turkey that the Kurdish movement is mostly backed by European powers and Russia, and that if Turkey manages to resolve the Kurdish issue, those foreign powers will no longer be able to use it as leverage against Turkey. This is something Ankara would love to achieve as there has been a crisis between Turkey and Europe for some time.

Ankara is trying to win over the Kurds so that the Kurds will no longer need to look toward Europe for help. The compromises the government has to make in order to win over the Kurds, however, may create complications elsewhere.

This is why the governing party now uses a nationalistic rhetoric. It is attempting to maintain the support of religious and nationalist voters in spite of the Kurdish opening.

This is about winning Kurds without losing Turks.This is a complicated balancing act already, but there is more.

Whether they are Turk or Kurd, conservative or secular, people have a number of other very concrete concerns, such as how much money they will bring home at the end of the day or whether the country will be safe tomorrow. This is why most people donand#39t really care about the technical details of the political process they simply pay attention to the results, expecting a brighter future.

This decision to lay down weapons will give ordinary people the feeling that the future will be more stable and secure, but this is not the end of story. Kurds will expect their demands to be satisfied in return.

What then? Promises are no longer enough and they are eager to see tangible reforms as soon as possible.The peace process is about bargaining and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the PKK are being very careful when negotiating with the elections quickly approaching.

Moreover, the governing party is trying to influence conservative factions of the Kurds, while the Kurdish political movement tries to influence the very same segments by evoking the Kurdish identity. These two political currents are rivals, but in the meantime they must negotiate with each otherPerhaps the Kurds feel they have a more aantageous position, as they still have the option of resuming the armed struggle.

The governmentand#39s position is more delicate, it has to develop a formula attractive to both conservatives and Kurds. Politics are a andldquoscienceandrdquo indeed.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman