Huda-Par to hinder ruling party’s chances of success in elections

The Free Cause Party (Huda-Par), a Kurdish Islamist party that will take part in parliamentary elections for the first time in the upcoming polls, hopes to obtain two seats in Parliament, while the votes it will get may significantly weaken the ruling party’s chances of success in the predominantly Kurdish Southeast.

Huda-Par, which, as an abbreviation for Hur Dava Partisi, stands for “Party of God,” will participate in the elections on June 7 with nine independent deputies in nine provinces namely, Diyarbakir, Adana, Batman, BingOl, Bitlis, Mardin, ianliurfa, iirnak and Van.

Zekeriya Yapicioilu, leader of Huda-Par and deputy candidate for Diyarbakir province, this week told a Kurdish news portal, Rudaw, that his party’s chances of gaining votes in the region have significantly increased since the local elections of last year.

Huda-Par, also considered a successor to Turkish Hizbullah (which has no affiliation with Lebanon’s Hezbollah), has its strongest voter support in Diyarbakir and Batman provinces in the country’s Southeast. In Arabic, Hizbullah also means “Party of God.”

In the local elections of March of last year, the party received around 34,000 votes (almost 5 percent of the vote) in Diyarbakir, and almost 13,000 votes (7.8 percent of the vote) in Batman. “The surveys we conducted revealed that our votes will increase compared to the local elections of March 30, 2014, and will even double in some areas,” Yapicioilu maintained.

Huda-Par, which was established at the end of 2012, denies any link to Turkish Hizbullah. However, it is widely acknowledged that the party enjoys a similar group of sympathizers to those of Turkish Hizbullah, which was involved in terrorist activities in the 1990s. The party, with a support base representing well below 1 percent of voters, has never been able to win a mayoral seat in past local elections.

According to Aziz istegun, who, as a regional bureau chief of the Zaman daily, is established in Diyarbakir, Huda-Par stands a fairly good chance of having its candidate elected as a deputy in Batman. Regarding the party’s chances in Diyarbakir, he is not all that optimistic. “[It will be] difficult, but it is not impossible,” he told Sunday’s Zaman, noting that all sympathizers of the party are expected, in contrast to previous elections, to go to the ballot box on June 7.

Should another pro-Kurdish party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), be unable to surpass the 10 percent election threshold, Huda-Par would then also stand a good chance of having its candidate elected in Diyarbakir, as the number of votes needed for an independent candidate would in that case be smaller.

As the HDP, which is linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), is entering the elections as a party rather than with independent candidates, it needs to gain more than 10 percent of all valid votes to be represented in Parliament.

Huda-Par’s struggle to have some its candidates elected will unavoidably take its toll on the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) which, as a conservative Islamist party, is in a general ideological alignment with Huda-Par. Huda-Par is ideologically close to Iran, a theocratic state. Huda-Par’s sympathizers, who have a fundamentalist Islamist ideology, are estimated to have either voted for the ruling party or not to have voted at all in past general elections. But they are now able to vote for their own candidates.

Sympathizers of the party recently held a big rally in Diyarbakir to celebrate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad on the occasion of Holy Birth Week. Tens of thousands of people participated in the rally, in which a group was reportedly prevented from chanting the slogan “Long live Hizbullah.”

In January almost 100,000 Huda-Par sympathizers also organized a rally in Diyarbakir to protest the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, which was the target of a deadly attack in early January for its cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. During the rally, the protesters held placards bearing slogans such as quotDamn those saying ‘I am Charlie’quot and quotMay Charlie’s Devils not defame the Prophet.”

Delivering a speech at the rally, Mullah Osman Teyfur said the lovers of the Prophet may remain silent against slander directed at them, but they will not accept attacks and insults against quotod’s messenger.quot “We are saying that as long as you remain hostile toward God’s messenger, we will be hostile against you,” Teyfur stated. He also said that the tongues of those who insulted the messenger of God should be cut. At the end of the rally, demonstrators prayed for the Prophet Muhammad and chanted slogans in Kurdish, saying: “Long live Hizbullah!”

Hizbullah was alleged to have been established by Turkish intelligence in the 1990s to counterbalance the surge of terror committed by the PKK, which is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU. Huda-Par is ideologically opposed to the PKK, which was founded on secular Marxist ideology. Sympathizers of Huda-Par and the PKK engaged in several deadly clashes toward the end of last year.

The clashes in October between PKK members and supporters of the Huda-Par have raised fears of further conflict while recalling bitter memories of the early 1990s, during which the conflict between the PKK and Hizbullah claimed the lives of hundreds of people.

Out of the 10 people who were killed in Diyarbakir in the protests in October, six were members of Huda-Par. Activities of the Turkish Hizbullah have been largely curbed after police operations targeted their cells in 2000.

Although not linked to the Hezbollah of Lebanon, the Turkish Hizbullah has links to an Iranian group of the same name and is known to be mainly inspired by its Iranian counterpart.