Friday, March 28, 2014

A Short take on the BDP/HDP: From Turkey's Southeastern Kurdish Regions to Istanbul (Turkish Local Election Coverage 2014, 6)

Just months before the election campaign began, the Kurdish Peace and Democratic Party (BDP), who has 26 seats in the Turkish parliament, split, with three of its members, Sirri Sureyya Onder, Sebahat Tuncel, and Ertugrul Kurkcu, establishing the Peoples Democratic Party (HDP), which is as an umbrella group for leftist parties and minority-group activist; in essence, serving as the BDP’s western counterpart. 

In the 2009 local elections, the then DTP swept in eight municipalities in Turkey’s Kurdish Southeastern Regions; following the closure of this party, the BDP was established, and in the 2011 national elections, running as independents (not able to pass the ten-percent parliamentary threshold), increased their influence even more in the region. Since then, they have officially been the main intermediaries/representatives in the peace talks between the Turkish government and the jailed PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan, with calls among many of their party members for autonomy, following the elections.

The former DTP, now BDP, took 8 municpalities in 2009, with
expected gains in the upcoming local elections (seen in purple).
The role in the peace process has strengthened the BDP, making Erdogan’s strategy of mustering up support in the Southeast counter-productive; in fact, the BDP could even take two out of the three municipalities the AKP currently holds: Bitlis and Mardin; however, it seems unlikely they can take Sanliurfa. There is no doubt however that the BDP also understands that their future is tied to the AKP, due to the ongoing peace process that could fall victim to any substantial decline in AKP support.

As for the HDP, while its leftist/liberal agenda has an appeal to many fringe groups, their strategy of running Sirri Sureyya Onder as a mayoral candidate has been criticized by many; first, while Onder was a central figure in the Gezi Park Protests, his candidacy seemed doomed from the start and some argue that it will take votes away from CHP’s mayoral candidate Mustafa Sarigul, securing the win of the AKP’s incumbent, Kadir Topbas. However, Onder rightly claims that he is also is taking votes from the AKP. The truth be told however that the final results will most likely show a low performance by Onder, which will demonstrate a tactical mistake on the party to run him as a candidate in the first place, and revealing other weaknesses in the party.           


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