21/06/2014 - 23:00
The People’s Democracy Party (HDP): a short history

The People's Democracy Party (HDP) was set up by civil society organisations, leftist groups and individuals from social sectors marginalised by neo-liberal policies. It aims to become the voice of Turkey's voiceless.

The Gezi Park protests last summer demonstrated the extent of popular dissatisfaction with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its authoritarian mode of governance. However, the street protests also illustrated the lack of a viable political alternative to the AKP.

The Peoples' Democracy Party (HDP) has been set up to fill Turkey's "Democratic opposition" vacuum.

The HDP is the outcome of efforts to unite the Turkish left, BDP, politically marginalised populations and civil society under one electoral roof.

Although the HDP held its first extraordinary congress in October 2013, its roots lie in the pre-2011 general election period.

Kurdish Leader Abdullah Ocalan had long called for an umbrella party to bring all leftist movements in Turkey together.

He reckoned that the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) appealed only to the Kurds and confined itself to the southeast of the country, failing to make a nationwide impact.

In his view, an umbrella party could fill what he saw as a big void on the left flank of the Turkish opposition. Ocalan's call yielded its first results during the 2011 general elections, when the BDP aligned with some 20 socialist parties and movements to form the Labour, Democracy and Freedom Bloc.

The coalition managed to win 36 parliamentary seats. Following the elections, the Bloc continued its activities as the People's Democratic Congress (HDK), an organisation bringing politicians, civil society and representatives of marginalised social segments together at the grassroots level. As such, the HDK attempted to incorporate the Kurdish question into the general politics of Turkey and bring together a variety of political organizations under one banner.

The HDK includes a variety of minority groups, including Alevis, Armenians, Circassians, Laz, Arabs and Assyrians, as well as feminists, socialists, far-leftist parties, environmental movements, communities for the disabled, and lesbian and gay communities (LTGB). From the very beginning, the HDK has acted as a platform for the political unification of these under-represented groups.

The HDK, in turn, established the HDP on October 16th, 2013, electing Ertugrul Kurkcu, a prominent Turkish socialist, and Sebahat Tuncel, a leading figure in the Kurdish movement, as co-chairs.

After the establishment of the party, the HDK was not dissolved, but continued its work to unite civil society, excluded populations and dissident political groups in regional assemblies at the grassroots level, making these assemblies the foundation of the policy making processes of the HDP.

The HDP's diverse membership is a clear indication of the plurality that the party claims to represent. If plurality is one central aspect of the party, the emphasis placed on the disadvantaged and oppressed groups, a reflection of its leftist orientation, is another.

The HDP has adopted the system of co-chairs in line with its principle of equality at all levels. The party has also allocated a ten percent quota for LTGB individuals.

BDP deputies in the parliament joined the HDP at the end of April this year, following the local elections, to build the HDP as a comprehensive party.

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