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The Kurds and the stake of the parliamentary elections in Turkey

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The end of the last year announced a tense 2015 concerning the domestic policy in Turkey. The best argument was given by the Recep ERDOGAN`s transition in the position of President of the Republic.

Ahmet DAVUTOGLU's appointment as prime minister, Abdullah GUL`s marginalization, representing the moderate camp of the Justice and Development Party (AKP/Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi), the announcement regarding the future of some AKP MPs or the desire to change the Constitution in order to make the transition from a parliamentary system to a presidential one are sufficient topics to charge the political agenda of Turkey.

For all this, we can expect an increase in the dispute between the government and the GULEN movement, other arrests of journalists and representatives of civil society and a possible escalation of social tensions this spring. Meanwhile, R. ERDOGAN seeks to maintain total control over his own party initiating special surveillance departments of the government, which does not seem to bother the current Prime Minister. The relationship between R. ERDOGAN and A. DAVUTOGLU was expected to be solid at least in the first half of the year, especially since the Prime Minister is focused on parliamentary elections that should take place on June 7, 2015.

The entire political stakes of the game is given by the parliamentary elections, but not in terms of the winner, but on the number of seats in Parliament won by each party. The purpose of the opposition is to prevent the AKP from obtaining a sufficient number of their MPs and like this to be able to change the Constitution.

It is certain that the AKP, which holds the power since 2001, will finish first, listing at about 55% of the total votes, a percentage that will not guarantee the number of seats required to be able amend the Constitution. Criticisms against the party are becoming stronger, from corruption scandals to accuse regarding the gradual Islamization of society. This is why increasing presidential powers raises many doubts in the West, where R. ERDOGAN is put on the same list with leaders like V. PUTIN and H. CHAVEZ.

Most likely, the second and third place, according to polls, will be assigned to the Republican People's Party (CHP/Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi) and to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP/ Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi). The complexity of the situation is given by the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP/Halkların Demokratik Partisi), representing the Kurdish community, which decided for the first time in history to participate in parliamentary elections. So far, the Kurds have participated most of them as independent candidates, which allowed them to avoid some of the limitations of the electoral law, winning 33 seats in Parliament in 2011, equivalent to 6, 55% of the total electorate. Moreover, HDP is quoted at 6-7%, well below the 10 percent minimum required for each party to be eligible for the Turkish Parliament. The law was imposed in the early 90s when military leaders have sought to exclude small parties, but also the political marginalization of Kurds and Islamists. Instead, the law is more permissive for independent candidates, a scenario that was a lot speculated by the Kurds.

HDP`s decision, as surprising as it is risky, comes after party leader Selahattin DEMIRTAŞ managed to get a score of 9.76% last autumn, when the first popular presidential elections were held. Getting an impressive number of votes, not only from Kurdish populated areas but also from major cities of the country, led HDP to rethink their political calculations. A failure that would not allow getting into Parliament would mean an increase in the number of seats obtained by the AKP. ERDOGAN and DAVUTOGLU's party could obtain minimum number of 330 MPs of the total of 500. In this context, Constitution change will be just a formality for ERDOGAN.

On the other hand, Kurdish presence in parliament is necessary for Turkey's domestic stability. A possible lack of them would risk a split between Kurdish Islamists, close to AKP and supporters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK/Partiya Karkerên Kurdistani), approach which can blow up the current peace agreement. Such a scenario is unacceptable for the current leadership in Ankara, which, beyond the socioeconomic risks, does not want return the army to the forefront.

Therefore, the AKP should carefully consider political strategy. The fact is that, despite pressure from the opposition, the ruling party does not consider reducing the electoral threshold of 10 percent. This is demonstrated by the eloquent statement made by Mustafa ŞENTROP, AKP leader, according to which, even if it accepts reducing this threshold, according to the Constitution, such a decision may be taken with at least 1 year before the election.

 

 

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