15 May 2019 16:29

Kurdish equation or Turkish equation

Where does the opposition stand in this critical matter? This issue also basically testifies that the 'Kurdish equation' is at the same time a 'Turkish equation'.

Photograph: MA


Last week, under the headline, “Does Öcalan’s announcement betoken a new process?”, I discussed the meeting Öcalan had with his lawyers following an interval of eight years and what he had stated at that meeting. With continued controversy over the coinciding of permission for Öcalan’s meeting with the Supreme Election Council’s annulment of the election for Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor, let me continue this week.

MHP General Chair Bahçeli’s comment regarding Öcalan’s meeting with his lawyers, “In the manner his excellency the President has stated, it is a reply that does not cover the solution process but was given to the lawyer’s request. If you ask me, let him meet his lawyer” came as confirmation that they were calculating by means of this meeting on influencing Kurdish voters in Istanbul with a view to changing the result on 23 June of the Istanbul elections that they lost by a narrow margin.

In addition, the need may also have been felt for a compensatory adjustment in view of the negative effect exerted on Kurdish voters by rhetoric demonizing the HDP and entering alliance with it in the run-up to the 31 March election

Meanwhile, let us recall that along with that of the prime minister of the day, Bülent Ecevit, the signatures of coalition partners Devlet Bahçeli and Mesut Yılmaz appeared in the text of the accord dated 12 January 2000 that prohibited capital punishment, although subsequent years have seen Bahçeli publicly call for Öcalan’s execution.

The nationalist movement, which defined itself in terms of anti-communism until the 1980’s, began on the other hand from the mid-1980’s to define itself essentially through its opposition vis-à-vis the Kurdish problem.

However, as a party that prioritises the state, with an eye on regional and international processes that it thinks may form part of the perspective of “strengthening the state,”  developments to which the state’s traditional security-oriented structure is predisposed will also be within the nationalist movement’s field of vision.

Let me now continue by summing up this side of the matter.

The HDP set out its position on the repeat election in the concluding statement of its Extraordinary Party Assembly Meeting: “We will append our signature to an electoral victory along with the opposition forces in Istanbul on 23 June.”

Bearing in mind that the reply the governing entity and the state as a whole will over time give to the proposals in Öcalan’s comments is directly dependent on developments in Syria and in temporal terms this is not a pre-election issue, we can foresee that it will be unrealistic to expect a dramatic shift in Kurdish voters’ preferences on 23 June. Notwithstanding this, it cannot be said that there is absolutely no chance of the rhetoric, implications and gestures of People’s Alliance actors aimed at creating an expectation in this regard finding an uptake, even if relative, among a particular body of voters that fluctuates between the AKP and HDP.

Certainly, given that the HDP has clearly expressed its preference, it is appropriate to debate this aspect of the affair in the context of the ruling alliance’s actions.

However, the focus, probably for understandable reasons, of this debate on minute calculations with reference to the Istanbul elections, leaves behind more vital aspects of the affair.

Our recent history is replete with examples of the perception of the Kurds becoming a political force being a threat by the state’s security civil service, intelligence apparatus and other institutional structures. The entire state apparatus acting by way of common reflex to bring about the expulsion from parliament, stripped of their immunity, of DEP deputies in 1994 and the invalidation of the 7 June 2015 elections in which the HDP prevented the AKP from forming a single-party government by getting 13.1% of the vote bears testament to this. And today we are experiencing a similar situation on different scales.

So, where does the opposition stand in this critical matter? This issue also basically testifies that the “Kurdish equation” is at the same time a “Turkish equation.”

Despite there being no mention of the HDP in the alliance, if the significance of the support it gave in the west in the winning of the big cities and the fate-changing position of the Istanbul elections gives rise to significant discussion as to the solving of the Kurdish problem and a whole host of other basic problems, both from the CHP’s point of view and from that of a wider circle, it may open the door to an achievement over and above the Istanbul election that is currently awaited with baited breath.

Instead of doing this, making do with an opposition strategy limited to criticizing the Kurds, who have made dialogue about the need for a solution necessary, through the dialogue processes they have embarked on is nothing but a tragedy.

For just this reason, it is time to take a step back and regard things more holistically without being trapped among the current configuration of nerve endings.

(Translated by Tim Drayton)