The left-wing HDP party could stop Erdoğan seizing even more powerby Kaya Genç / June 5, 2015 / Leave a comment
“We will not make you president. We will not make you president. We will not make you president.”
When the leader of Turkey’s left-wing HDP party Selahattin Demirtaş spoke those words during a parliamentary group meeting in March, people had little idea that one of the shortest speeches in Turkey’s political history could prove so effective.
Demirtaş’s promise heralded an election campaign—Turkey’s general election is this Sunday—whose main political objective is to stop Turkey’s current president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan from further increasing his presidential powers. Erdoğan—who was three times Prime Minister of Turkey before he became President—wants his country’s system to more closely resemble that of America or France, giving him greater executive authority. The key question about this Sunday’s election is whether the HDP leader Selahattin Demirtaş’s can turn his impressive rhetoric into reality.
This is the first time the HDP (founded in 2012) has entered a general election. The latest polls show the party’s share of the vote somewhere between 9.5 and 11 per cent, with the ruling AK Party’s around 43 per cent and the Republican People’s Party around 26 per cent. The Turkish election system means the HDP will need 10 per cent to enter parliament. If the party manages that, Erdoğan’s ruling AK Party will still rule, but they would not be able to pass the constitutional changes which would bring about the presidential system. If the HDP fails to get 10 per cent, Turkey may have the presidential system Erdoğan wants, following a constitutional referendum sometime next year. The question is whether an environmentalist, anti-capitalist, left-feminist, LGBTI-defending, anti-nationalist political programme like the HDP’s can get 10 per cent support.
Where does the HDP come from? Many foreign outlets even get the party’s name wrong, let alone its ideology. HDP stands for Peoples’ Democratic Party, not People’s. Its identity politics, shared largely by Erdoğan, argues that Turks (Türkler) are a people and Kurds (Kürtler) another: together they constitute the peoples of Turkey (Türkiyeliler). During Ottoman rule Kurds had local administrative powers and partial autonomy; they were then forced to deny their ethnic identities during republican rule which equalled Kurdish identity with backwardness.
In the 1980s the Turkish state’s oppression became intolerable for the Kurds, especially…