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The new state of Turkish politics


Recent developments in Turkish politics have left many perplexed. More Kurdish parents in south-eastern Turkey are now standing up against the secessionist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and its political wing, the People's Democratic Party (HDP), to recover their children forcibly recruited in the PKK. At the same time, the main opposition, the Republican Party of the Secular People (CHP), which was created in part on the basis of Turkish ethnic nationalism put forward by the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal, has now entered de facto political alliance with the HDP, which ironically believes that the Kurds in Turkey were oppressed by the very ethno-social policies that Mustafa Kemal and his party introduced in the 1920s.

In addition, Meral Aksener, who formed the Good Party with separate MPs from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), clearly expressed support behind the HDP co-chair, Selahattin Demirtas, even though he was found guilty of # 39; having encouraged the illegal separatist PKK. Finally, CHP president Kemal Kilictaroglu, whose party is historically known for his anti-American stance, criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for acquiring the Russian S-400 missile defense system and thus sore relations between the Turks and United States.

What is the real Erdogans plan for the Kurds?


So why has Turkish politics become so paradoxical and puzzled? The answer lies in how, in 2017, a new presidential system replaced an old parliamentary system, changing the behavior of the opposition and helping radical left-wing ideology to dominate the CHP.

Anyone but Erdogan

Under the parliamentary system, where proportional representation is ensured, President Erdogans Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been practically invincible since its creation in 2002, winning the last six general elections. With the exception of the general elections of June 2015, which were re-voted due to the failure of the formation of a coalition government, the AKP was able to assume supermajority in Parliament, making Turkey a one-party government.

Therefore, in the parliamentary system, the main opposition CHP had no chance of forming a government, mainly due to adverse demographic realities. This fundamentally changed with the introduction of the presidential system in 2017, of which Erdogan spearheaded, where Parliament was marginalized, while the executive acquired enormous powers, notably that to lead the government. Consequently, in the new two-round presidential elections, a candidate must obtain at least 50% + 1 of the popular vote to be elected. If no majority is reached, a second round is organized between the two most popular candidates in the first round.

The first of these presidential elections was held in June 2018, where four major parties (AKP, CHP, HDP and the Bon Parti) nominated their own candidate, Tayyip Erdogan being the strongest prospect. With what is now called the Peoples Alliance, where the AKP and right-wing Turkish ultranationalist MHP formed an official pact, Erdogan won the 2018 elections with 52% of the vote. However, a slight margin victory convinced the opposition that in a 50% + 1 system, they might have a chance against him. Therefore, in an unprecedented turn in Turkish politics, the opposition began to merge around the idea of ​​anyone except Erdogan.

The opposition formed what is now called the Nation Alliance, where the CHP and the Good Party created an official pact, with the HDP and the Felicity Party (SP, former Erdogans party) providing informal support. . The Bon Parti, with its moderate Turkish nationalist ideology, did not want to conclude an official pact with the Kurdish nationalist HDP, which is known to be the banned political arm of the PKK.

The prospect of a new style of opposition was tested for the first time in the municipal elections of March 2019. To ensure success, the Nation Alliance only designated the candidates whose party had the best chance of winning against the Peoples Alliance. For example, in Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu was the candidate for mayor of the CHP, and the HDP, the Good Party and the SP did not present a candidate to show their support for Imamoglu, their voters having to vote for him . This tactic seemed to have worked. For the first time in 30 years, a manifestly left-wing and secular worldview party has won, with the support of the rest of the opposition, municipal elections in the four largest cities in Turkey: Istanbul, Ankara , Izmir and Adana. The last time this happened, it was in the 1989 local elections in which the Left-wing / Secular Social Democratic Populist Party (SHP), which merged with the CHP in 1995, won the four cities. Thus, the opposition bloc's appetite for anyone except Erdogan to overthrow the president has gathered seemingly different political opinions creating a paradoxical image in Turkish politics.

comrades-in the arms

With his votes constantly hovering around 10%, the Kurdish secessionist HDP proved to be vital for the opposition. In the 2018 presidential election, for example, HDP candidate Selahattin Demirtas won 4.2 million votes, or 8.4% of the total vote. On an ideological level, the HDP is the extension of the PKK, which was created in the 1970s on Marxist-Leninist principles, advocating the armed insurrection in Turkey. In the same vein, the HDP presents elements of Maoism in local governance.

According to this doctrine, governance is decentralized, the power being devolved to democratic units in descending order: cities, neighborhoods to neighborhoods, where organized municipalities manage daily life. The elected co-chairs chair each of these entities. It is because of this Maoist ideology that the HDP itself, as well as its local municipalities, are overseen by co-chairs. Dan Wilkofsky, from the Navanti group, States that this type of community governance model is observed in some parts of Syria where the PKK affiliate, the People's Protection Units (YPG), are now in charge.

Bearing in mind the Marxist / Maoist tendencies of the HDPs, the leader of the CHP, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, appointed Canan Kaftancioglu to the head of his province of Istanbul in 2018, a major political position. His goal was obviously to appeal to the voters of the HDP in Istanbul, which is known to be the largest Kurdish city in the world, home to a million Kurds. In Turkey, Kaftancioglu is a controversial figure known for his pro-PKK and communist opinions. In her speech At the congress of the Turkish Communist Party (TKP) in 2018, Kaftancioglu encouraged his comrades to rewrite the current constitution of Turkey on the basis of revolutionary communist ideas.

While the CHP is recognized as the Ataturks party, Kaftancioglu has sometimes denounced Ataturks' point of view on Turkish nationalism. In addition, CHP deputies such as Sezgin Tanrikulu, Ali Seker and Onursal Adiguzel are known to have attended the funerals of PKK members killed by Turkish law enforcement officials. Former CHP vice-president Erdal Aksunger openly said that his party needed an alliance with the HDP. This list continues.

Spirit of 68

It is important to note here that if the need for electoral success against Erdogan was a major driving force in the desire of the CHP to form an alliance with the HDP, there is a strong socialist and radical left vein within the party which led to this agreement. . CHP members who claim to wear what is called '68 Ruhu the spirit of 68 has, in the past, particularly in the 1970s, sympathized with the Soviet Union and advocated for a socialist revolution in Turkey. However, with the anti-communist military coup in 1980 and, later, the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990, their dream of revolution failed.

However, the PKK's Marxist-Leninist ideas of an armed revolution have begun to fill the void in the ranks of the CHP. In fact, it was the efforts of this generation of 68 in the tradition of the CHP that enabled pro-PKK politicians to become deputies in 1991 for the first time in modern Turkish history. Today, it seems more and more that the PKK and the HDP have become ideological beacons for the members of the CHP of generation 68 who have revolutionary socialist ideals. The current de facto CHP-HDP coalition has raised such questions as to whether the CHP is still the Ataturks party and whether the HDP is getting so strong that it could engulf the CHP in the future, later trying to control the Turkish state. .

This possibility disturbs members of the CHP who are nationalists of Ataturk and who see the separatism of the PKK as a threat to the future of the Turks. It is important to remember here that even if Ataturk needed Soviet support in the early years of the republic, he, a Turkish nationalist, denounced communist revolutionary ideas. The growing ideological chasm between these Kemalist nationalists and pro-PKK / HDP socialists within the CHP will likely shape the party's future. In the event that the CHP increases their intimacy with the HDP, it should not be surprising that the Kemalist CHP nationalists deprived of their rights secede from their party in favor of President Erdogan, whose nationalist opinions are closer to their own. This could play an important role in the presidential elections of 2023.

Like the CHP, the HDP also contains some paradoxes. HDP declared gone manifesto emphasizes socialist values ​​such as workers' rights, ecology, egalitarianism, women and LGBT rights. In addition, the HDP declared itself anticapitalist and anti-imperialist, while advocating equality for all. However, unlike its manifesto charged with socialism, in practice the party pursues a policy resembling right-wing nationalism. The HDP often uses ethnic terminology such as Kurdistan, North Kurdistan (referring to south-eastern turkeys), Kurdish nation and Kurdish unity in its verbal and written statements.

The HDP essentially practices ethno-nationalism while defending the socialist values ​​of the far left. In the same contradictory vein, the military wing of the HDP, the Maoist and anti-capitalist PKK, concluded a military alliance in Syria with the United States, the world engine of capitalism. Paradoxically, in 2016, the PKK established his Syrian project Rojova, or the United Peoples Revolutionary Movement, which is made up of a number of Marxist / Leninist / Maoist organizations calling for destruction of capitalism and the United States.

Face of the Kurdish question and secularism

Another paradoxical fact is that President Erdogan seems to have done more to resolve the Kurdish turkey problem by engaging in a controversial negotiation process with the PKK and by granting cultural rights to the Kurds during the peace process between 2013 and 2015. In addition , Erdogan officially apologized for the massacres of Kurds under the single party regime of the CHP in 1933. Yet the pro-Kurdish HDP never gave up its firm opposition to Erdogan, concluding an alliance of de facto with the CHP, which never assumed responsibility for the murder of Kurds during his reign. .

One of the most striking recent developments in recent Turkish politics is the rise of Kurdish mothers against the PKK and its political wing, the HDP, which can be explained by the evolution of evolution. political and security environment in southeast turkeys. The collapse of the peace process in 2015 was followed by what was then called trench warfare, during which the PKK, using the strategy of denial, declared the autonomy of the turkeys mainly from the Kurdish cities Cizre, Nusaybin, Sur and Sirnak. The period of trench warfare resulted in a decisive crushing of the PKK by Turkish security forces and the restoration of state authority which followed in the aforementioned cities.

Another blow to the PKK occurred in 2017-2018, when Turkey launched cross-border operations in Syria, which put an end to the presence of the PKK-affiliated YPG in the province of Syrias Afrin. The absolute military domination of turkeys over the PKK in south-eastern Turkey and north-western Syria has encouraged Kurdish parents who want to recover their children from the PKK. Historically, most Kurds in south-eastern Turkey have varied their support between the government and the PKK according to the pendulum of power fluctuating between the two. The fact that the government presence was stronger than ever in south-eastern Turkey encouraged these parents against the PKK.

Finally, the new presidential system has caused the Turkish secular establishment to reassess its vision of ideology. Before the Praetorian and Secular Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) were civilized in the late 2000s, the CHP in tandem with the TAF was known to be radically secular. For example, the headscarf has been banned in state institutions and demonstrations of faith in public spaces have been frowned upon. With the new electoral system, the CHP has softened its perception of secularism to appeal to the conservative constituency. So, in the 2014 presidential election, he appointed Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, a Al-Azhar alumni and the former secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, as challenger Erdogans.

In addition, during the 2018 presidential election, Muharrem Ince, the CHPs candidate, boasted that her sister has been wearing a scarf for 40 years, and that the turkey scarf problem is a thing of the past. Finally, during the 2019 municipal elections, the CHP accentuated Mayor Imamoglu's Islamic past in promotional videos showing images of him reciting the Qur'an.

The political atmosphere of turkeys is changing rapidly, to the point where it is now riddled with what many perceive as paradoxes. The new presidential system has created a culture of alliances in which once unthinkable political collaborations are becoming commonplace. The Ataturks party, the CHP, is openly courting the HDP, which many say conspires to dismember the very state that Ataturk created. In addition, the secessionist HDP supports the CHP, which, he quips, is the architect of the oppressive system for the Kurds. In the past, the radically secular CHP is now courting Islamist voters. These paradoxes have serious implications for the future of Turkish politics, especially with regard to the presidential election of 2023 and must be watched closely.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Fair Observers.

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