4th July 2014
All three candidates for the upcoming elections in Turkey and North Kurdistan have been declared. Not surprisingly the AKP’s candidate is Prime Minister Erdogan; the HDP’s candidate co-chair Selahattin Demirtas, while the CHP-MHP joint candidate is Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, an Islamist newcomer to active politics.
Ihsanoglu was the first candidate to be declared and the most furore and discussion has broken out over his candidacy. The Kemalist wing, nationalists and the few social democrats within the CHP have been openly critical of their party for declaring a man whose primary identity is his Islamic identity. At the grassroots level CHP’s core voters are also upset and angry with their party for not consulting them and their organisations. Alevis make up an important part of this unsettled group and see this candidacy as proof that the CHP is becoming more like the MHP and moving to the right rather than social democracy. Further proof is that Ihsanoglu was an advisor to Alparslan Turkes, the founder of the MHP and its one time leader, which makes one think he is more the MHP’s candidate than the CHP’s. Ihsanoglu’s statements about the Sivas massacre today (02.02.2014) where he said, ‘it has been 31 years’ and ‘about 30 people lost their lives’ has attracted criticism for its lack of factual correctness, off handedness and empathy. In short many CHP voters do not see Ihsanoglu as their candidate.
On the other hand Erdogan and the AKP’s only intention is to win the election in the first round. Anything less would be demoralising and weaken Erdogan’s hand in the short if not long term, even if he did win in the second round. This means Erdogan will use his catalogue of arsenal during his campaign to undermine, weaken and discredit his opponents; which could see us witness Turkish politics sink to new depths. Erdogan has a consolidated vote potential but this may not be enough to take him over the 50% mark which will be detrimental to his attempts at bestowing the Presidency with more power than it has now. It will also dent his personal charisma which is at an all-time low around the world and with half of the population in Turkey and North Kurdistan.
The most exciting and inspiring candidate is surely HDP’s candidate Selahattin Demirtas, the youngest of the three and a man who represents a new type of politician in Turkey and Kurdistan. He is an intellectual and a true democrat who has a universal and humanist approach to women’s rights, workers’ rights, gender-equality and the environment. He is also the only candidate who was present at the remembrance for the victims of the Sivas massacre and gave a solemn but determined speech about the importance of equality and freedom for all the peoples and groups in Turkey and Kurdistan.
The significance of the Presidential election goes beyond just choosing the first President to be elected by the public. The results will be a litmus test for the 2015 general election and also have a big impact on the course democracy will take in Turkey and North Kurdistan. If the HDP candidate Selahattin Demirtas can get more than 10% of the vote it will mean the anti-democratic election threshold could be overcome next year, thus making another obstacle against democracy obsolete. This will give the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) a big boost after having selected their new co-chairs and show the majority of Turkey that there is an alternative to the system parties that represent the left, right and centre of the Turkish state. It will also strengthen the bond and will to co-exist as different nations, ethnicities, religious and belief groups in Turkey and Kurdistan. Furthermore it will develop the peace process and help protect the revolution in Rojava.
It seems then that the deciding factor could be the Kurdish and Turkish Alevis, social democrats and democrat Muslims who have been voting for the CHP and AKP until now. Apart from the millions living in Turkey and N.Kurdistan there are millions who fit this description living in England, France, Germany, Switzerland and many other countries around the world who are citizens of Turkey and who will have the right to vote in August. An important opportunity has arisen for the first time to convince these people to vote for the alternative to the status quo, which is Selahattin Demirtas. So it is imperative that individuals and organisations organise to discuss, argue and register for the vote in their respective countries and vote for Selahattin Demirtas, the only viable candidate for a brighter, more equal and democratic future.
All it takes is for you to get your Turkish ID number if you don't have one, download a registration form from the Turkish embassy website relative to the country you live in, take it to the embassy to register and then go to vote. A few hundred thousand votes could make an historical difference at this important juncture. Every vote counts.
- Memed Aksoy