My vote for the HDP and democracy in Turkey

Let me just say from the start, lest there be some confusion, that the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is not the party of my heart or my dreams.

And given that the HDP ranks include Kurdish nationalists who dream of a “Greater Kurdistan” (one that spreads from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean), not to mention fans of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its weapons-loving members, as well as representatives from the Turkish and Kurdish left who have never transcended the level of superficial “slogan” politics, I haven’t entirely warmed to the HDP.

But of course, the HDP is not solely composed of these elements. After all, it also boasts some of the most well-respected politicians in Turkey today, people like Selahattin Demirtai, Leyla Zana, Ahmet Turk, Aysel Tuiluk, Gulten Kiianak, Osman Baydemir and so on. These are people who freely and openly voice aspects of the problems facing the Kurdish people and women. They have placed themselves at the center of Turkish politics they struggle for peace. I am casting my vote for these politicians because I believe they will fight for peace in Turkey, that they don’t have a secret Plan B and that they won’t become the tools of the same kind of tyranny of which the Justice and Development Party (AKP) dreams.

Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin AkDogan asserts that “it would be super” if the HDP stays under the 10 percent threshold, adding: “These folks weren’t even around in 2005, so what happened then? Nothing. And now if they get stopped by the threshold once again nothing will happen.” Yes, you heard right, “It would be super.” If this politician had even the slightest sense of embarrassment, he wouldn’t ignore the fact that fellow MP Zana was once thrown out of Parliament for uttering one sentence of her swearing-in oath in Kurdish or that for 10 years she has served for political activism. The general profile of what the HDP is now did exist back in 2005 but at that time it was held back by the 10 percent threshold.

The real truth is that the words “it would be super” are the most sobering aspect of all they are the spoken expression of the reality that the AKP does not actually believe in the “peace project” and reflect AkDogan’s desire to see one of the main actors in the peace process disappear. Keep in mind that AkDogan is no rank and file AKP member, but one of the top officials in the government. And so, with the AKP defending the 10 percent threshold — brought about by the Sept. 12, 1980 coup to purposefully keep Kurds out of the political arena — I now cast my vote for the HDP.

If you elicit from my words more than a bit of anti-AKPism, you are not wrong. But the most important aspect here is my view that the struggle for democracy in Turkey has not changed for decades and now it is the AKP that lies on the other side of the flank, standing as it does alongside past coup plotters. Those who have been truly oppressed are the HDP and the Kurds represented by this party. And so again, my vote goes to the HDP, not because I share their political world, but in solidarity.

Yes, the HDP is the oppressed one here. The entire point of the 10 percent threshold brought forward by our 1982 Constitution — a direct product of the Sept. 12 coup — was to push the Kurds outside of the political system. For a long time, it succeeded in this. Of course, the HDP managed to overcome this barrier by putting forward independent candidates, thus cracking open the door of Parliament. But the effects of the threshold on the larger, more organized structure of the party have been clear no state assistance to the party, and this time, since it’s entering elections for the “first” time, no assignment of party members to ballot box councils.

In the meantime, with regional ballot box councils filled with Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) members — two parties that have almost no showing whatsoever in the voter fabric of the region — the chances that the elections in the region might be manipulated seems very real. Keep in mind that this is just one small example.

Perhaps one of the most striking reflections of the unfairness at hand is that in the last election, despite the fact that the AKP received proportionally fewer votes than the HDP in Diyarbakir, it picked up the most MPs from that city. The situation is anti-democratic, far removed from justice and simply no longer defendable. And so to right this, I am casting my vote for the HDP.

The Kurds have been treated unfairly. Of course, they are no longer completely discounted as they were in the past but families in Turkey are able to send their children, if they wish, to be educated at schools that offer English, German, Italian and so on, whereas schools offering Kurdish are still forbidden. Why? Because the spirit of the Sept. 12 coup is still alive and pervasive in state policies. Neither the president nor the prime minister attempt to conceal their opposition to native language education and, unfortunately, the main opposition CHP also lacks a defendable stance on this topic. Which is why, once again, my vote goes to the HDP.

Perhaps the most important reason driving me to vote for the HDP this time around has to do with Turkey. In these coming elections, stopping the process of shelving laws or the continuation of the Sept. 12 regime will only be possible with HDP representation in Parliament. So to bring a halt to the AKP — which has brought authoritarianism and corruption to new heights, plunging the country into new depths of tension while ruining its reputation abroad — I am casting my vote for the HDP.

And yes, I realize that if the HDP doesn’t manage to transcend the 10 percent threshold, the candidates for whom I didn’t cast my vote will still enter Parliament, where they will proceed to “represent” me. And the AKP, while enjoying the fruits of its unjust victory, would in this situation no doubt be “overjoyed,” and declare it once again “super” that the HDP didn’t make it. Which is why I’m casting my vote for the HDP I think we need to take this risk, for the sake of a democratic Turkey.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman