Jun 06 2019

Turkey's Kurds will engage more with the opposition following the local elections - analyst

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s polarisation politics gave Kurds a chance to engage with the opposition parties to build an inclusive and embracing Turkey, analyst  Aykan Erdemir in an interview with Washington Kurdish Institute.

Kurdish votes played a vital role in Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s election defeats on March 31 in Turkey’s major provinces, including Istanbul and Ankara.

Together with his far-right ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, Erdoğan used a harsh rhetoric against the predominantly Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) ahead of the March elections, equalising the HDP with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and criminalising relations between the pro-Kurdish party and other opposition parties. 

"In a way they [Erdoğan and Bahçeli] created empathy. Turkey’s other opposition parties, now that they are also criminalised by Bahçeli and Erdogan, began to develop empathy for what the Kurds have been living through – because the Kurds have been criminalised from day one," said Erdemir,  a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former member of the Turkish Parliament.

The HDP did not form an official alliance with opposition parties for local polls, but did not field candidates in major cities and concentrated on provinces in southeast Turkey, where the government previously replaced elected HDP mayors with appointed ones.

This opened a new period when Kurdish politicians will engage with their counterparts to transform the way of thinking in Turkey which labels Kurds as a marginal element, according to Erdemir.

Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu on May 27 said a legislative regulation must be prepared for the Kurdish language to be recognised officially. 

Erdemir said this move is beyond the discussions to form tactical alliances to win elections and it is rather about long-term coalitions that may lead to a transformation in Turkey's political scene. 

But, there are problems to unite Turkey's "heterogenous" opposition including the pro-secular, centre-left, an Islamist party, a nationalist splinter group and Kurds. It's the very beginnings of an opposition bloc, but rather "a very loose bloc", Erdemir said.