CAFER – Why does the AKP fear Selahattin DemirtaI?

Why does the AKP fear Selahattin DemirtaI?As Iand#39ve written in the past, the most distinguishing feature of the upcoming June 7 general election is that it will allow us to learn whether the Peoplesand#39 Democratic Party (HDP) will be able to transcend the 10 percent vote threshold. Recent developments in Turkey show us that previous calculations made by President Recep Tayyip ErdoIan and his inner circles, based on the idea that the HDP would not be able to transcend the threshold and thus continue to be excluded from Parliament, may not in fact hold.

Recent attacks by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) on HDP leader Selahattin DemirtaI indicate that the ruling party is beginning to take this possibility quite seriously.The truth, however, is that the discomfort felt by ErdoIan and the AKP when it comes to DemirtaI is nothing new.

After all, nearly all of the AKP members were pleased when DemirtaI first announced that he had no plans for leadership when the HDP party was first being formed with ambitions of becoming a more andldquoTurkey-orientedandrdquo party. This is important because in Turkish politics, a defining feature of a political partyand#39s success is the image of its leader A particular political partyand#39s agenda, assertions, policies and rhetoric have influence (or not) over the public via its leaderIt is partly because of this, in combination with pressure from party voters, that DemirtaI rose to the helm of the HDP alongside Co-chair Figen YuksekdaI.

The first serious test DemirtaI and the HDP faced — with its assertions that it was a party for all of Turkey — came during last yearand#39s presidential election. At the time, DemirtaI led a successful campaign, appealing to all factions of society.

He was able to draw peopleand#39s attention to some of the problems created by ErdoIan and AKP policies, and in fact, the issues facing Kurds was only one of the many that he addressed. In the end, the 97 percent vote he obtained in the presidential election was a result that sparked the realization that his party might be able to breach the 10 percent threshold in the general election.

Of course, DemirtaIand#39s success in the presidential election is not in and of itself a sufficient indicator Messages given by the HDP to voters in the run-up to the June 7 elections will be vital, as will be the actual candidates put forward by the party.When it comes to the AKP, its biggest trump card on the HDP front is the widely held public perception that it has somehow made andldquosecret agreementsandrdquo with the HDP in regards to the ongoing Kurdish solution process.

This is a perception that certain circles constantly work to create and reinforce in the public.In a series of clear messages to the public, DemirtaI has said that there have absolutely not been any secret agreements made between the AKP and the HDP.

He has also reiterated time and again that he is opposed to the presidential system on which ErdoIan is so resolute and has underscored that HDP opposition to the domestic security bill in Parliament will persist.It is clear that it is DemirtaIand#39s personal influence that is having the greatest effect in breaking the perception of a secret agreement between the HDP and ruling party.

I do not think that any other party leader could hold the sort of sway that DemirtaI has.In the meantime, the AKP played its essential trump card at the joint press conference held with AKP Ministers YalIn AkdoIan and Efkan Ala and a delegation from the HDP on Feb.

28. On that day, the AKP aimed to hit two birds with one stone — Abdullah calanand#39s public call for the Kurdistan Workersand#39 Party (PKK) to lay down its weapons and at the same time a photograph of the HDP and the AKP standing together with the goal of reigniting the public perception that the two parties had made a deal behind closed doors.

But it was right at this point that DemirtaI intervened, saying: andquotWe defend the idea of a sincere peace, while the AKP is selling a fantasy peace. This is why we do not trust the AKP.

andrdquoErdoIanand#39s direct attacks on DemirtaI gave the pro-government media an indication of who they were to target next, immediately resulting in headlines such as andquotDemirtaI does not want peace.andquotSo it needs to be asked: Why does the HDP under DemirtaI scare the AKP and ErdoIan so much?The answer lies in the question itself.

But of course there is a need for much greater scrutiny at this point because what we are really talking about here is what sort of country we will all awaken to the morning after the election.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman