IAHIN – Kurds hold the key

Kurds hold the keyAll who are committed to having democratic rights and freedoms that no government can violate are well aware that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, de facto led by President Recep Tayyip ErdoIan, is fast leading the country toward authoritarianism and one-man, oneandndashparty rule. A fundamental question for them is whether this can be averted.

The country is polarized into two roughly equal camps. On the one side there is the proandndashErdoIan camp, covering mainly proandndashIslamists, conservative Kurds and those who believe their economic interests necessitate continued AKP governance.

The opposing camp, on the other hand, includes mainly Republican Peopleand#39s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) voters the largest religious minority, Alevis liberalandndashminded Muslims Kurds and others. The tipping of the balance in the coming vital parliamentary elections this summer seems to hinge on the course to be pursued by nationalist Kurds represented mainly by the Kurdistan Workersand#39 Party (PKK) and its parliamentary wing, the Peoplesand#39 Democracy Party (HDP).

The proandndashKurdish political movement, including nationalists, socialists and liberals, has undoubtedly contributed to Turkeyand#39s democratization by challenging the Kemalist assimilationist policies of the state. However, the PKKand#39s armed insurgency, which began in the early 1980s, provided governments controlled from behind the scenes by the military with an excuse to oppose democratization and caused much suffering, particularly for the Kurds.

The PKK eventually abandoned its MarxistandndashLeninist ways and offered to lay down their arms in return for legalization and recognition of autonomy for the Kurdish region in March 2013 when Abdullah calan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK, called for an end to armed struggle and began conducting secret peace talks with the government.The PKK, particularly its military leadership in the Kandil Mountains, does not seem to trust the government in Ankara, suspecting foot-dragging tactics by the latter This explains its policy of continuing to negotiate with the government while threatening to resume the armed struggle if its basic demands are not met before the general election, which will be held in June, at the latest.

The AKP government, on the other hand, while engaging in talks with calan, seems to be trying to drag the negotiations on until after the elections, fearing granting concessions to the PKK would alienate part of its electorate and cause tension with the Kemalist military, with which it seems to have achieved a modus vivendi.The PKK, so as not to compromise a deal with the AKP government, did not take part in the Gezi Park protests, and managed to avoid confrontation over the Kobani crisis last October when ErdoIan said the terrorist PKK is no different from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The HDP, conspicuously, withdrew its representative from a parliamentary commission investigating former AKP ministers over corruption allegations, and recently announced that it will participate in the coming general elections despite the real risk of failing to clear the 10 percent threshold. This has triggered speculation that the HDP is ready to support ErdoIanand#39s plan to introduce a Putinandndashstyle presidential system in return for a deal with the AKP government, including the lowering of the threshold to 7 percent, which would let the HDP enter Parliament without having to resort to its previous tactic of nominating independent candidates.

What sort of give-and-take deals are being made during the secret talks between the government and the PKK are open to speculation. It seems that the PKK is prepared to give support to ErdoIanand#39s plans if the deal meets its basic demands, and deny that support if it does not.

I entirely agree with what was said in a PKK statement prior to the local elections held last March, andldquoTurkey cannot democratize without the resolution of the Kurdish question, and the Kurdish question cannot be resolved without the democratization of Turkey.andrdquo I doubt, however, if the PKK is truly committed to that thinking.

Consolidation of a liberal and pluralist democracy is surely in the interests of both the Turks and the Kurds. Turkey is moving further toward autocracy therefore, this has to be avoided by both.

SOURCE: The East African