ErdoIan versus DavutoIlu: What is likely to happen?

It would certainly be an irony of history if the Kurds come to play a major role in the democratization of Turkey after the Islamists seem to have accomplished their historic mission of laying out the foundations of a post-Kemalist Turkey. One can argue that Turkey’s most recent democratic push came from the Islamist camp in 2002, when the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP)ame to power Now we have to hope the second could come from the Kurdish political movemen

It would certainly be an irony of history if the Kurds come to play a major role in the democratization of Turkey after the Islamists seem to have accomplished their historic mission of laying out the foundations of a post-Kemalist Turkey.

One can argue that Turkeyand#39s most recent democratic push came from the Islamist camp in 2002, when the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP)ame to power Now we have to hope the second could come from the Kurdish political movement.

Both the Kurds and Islamists share the common denominator of being anti-systemic movements in the eyes of Kemalists.

Their ascent indicates that maybe anti-systemic movements have a better chance of truly changing the system This theory can still be proven wrong if the Kemalist Republican Peopleand#39s Party (CHP) manages to offer a viable democratic alternative for post-Kemalist Turkey.

Since Abdullah andOumlcalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workersand#39 Party (PKK), has called on his followers to lay down their arms as part of a peace process to end the 30-year insurgency, the political prospects of the Peoplesand#39 Democratic Party (HDP) seem to be constantly improving in terms of the partyand#39s chances of crossing the 10 percent electoral threshold.

If the HDP, whose support currently hovers at around 9 percent, manages to pass the threshold, it is likely to secure around 60 seats in Parliament, making the Kurds the kingmaker in Turkeyand#39s faltering democracy.

If the HDP plays its hand wisely, the Kurds could pick up where the AKP has left off as a driving force of democratization.

They have much to learn from the early years of the AKP, when President Recep Tayyip ErdoIan was considered an andldquoagent of change.andrdquo When ErdoIan swept to power 13 years ago, he presented himself as the man who would put Turkish democracy back on track after the lost decade of the 1990s, when Turkey was plagued by political and economic instability.

Unlike his Islamist predecessors, he ran on a pro-EU agenda of liberal reforms, promising to curb the militaryand#39s political power He turned the AKP into a catchall party uniting Islamists, conservatives, liberals and business groups that wanted to see the military divested from politics.

Under ErdoIanand#39s leadership, the AKP carried out economic and political reforms that challenged the privileged position of the Kemalist elite, including the military, and opened up political space to groups that had been marginalized by the Kemalist state.

However, in the last few years, the AKP and ErdoIan have turned increasingly authoritarian. The brutal suppression of protests, increasing restrictions on freedom of expression and corruption scandals have exposed an increasingly illiberal face of Turkey under the same leader who received so much adulation.

The AKP has indeed become the largest stumbling block in Turkeyand#39s democratic consolidation. Yet the party is still the most popular in the country, and the secularist CHP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) are unable to provide a liberal and democratic alternative.

The HDP, however, could fill the vacuum and become the liberal alternative that the country so desperately needs.

The HDP has already revised its strategy in an effort to appeal to all segments of Turkish society, not just Kurds.

HDP leader Selahattin DemirtaI ran a successful campaign in Turkeyand#39s presidential election last summer His appeal to non-Kurdish segments of the country and his inclusive rhetoric focusing on the urgent need for rule of law, accountability, freedom of expression and democratic consolidation won him many votes from CHP voters and liberals.

Today, it looks like the HDP under the leadership of DemirtaI is well-placed for a repeat performance.

It seems to be successfully mobilizing an anti-AKP coalition, uniting liberals, youth, marginalized groups and parts of the CHP base that have been alienated by the CHPand#39s incompetence in mounting an effective opposition to the AKP.

In a smart move in this direction, DemirtaI has called for the repeal of a draconian internal security bill that the AKP firmly supports, signaling that his party is willing to take on not just the Kurdish question but also issues that are of interest to Turkish society as a whole.

But perhaps more important is the HDPand#39s firm opposition to ErdoIanand#39s dream of a presidential regime. Given the dismal state of all other political alternatives, the future of Turkish democracy is now in Kurdish hands.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman