TURKEY. ‘A large part of Turkish society holds Erdogan responsible for the current escalation of violence’

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Journalist and historian Manuel Martorell analyzes the complex situation in Turkey. The reasons for the attack last Saturday, the repression unleashed by President Erdogan against the growing Kurdish movement and the political scene before the November elections.

By: Leandro Albani / Source: ResumenMedioOriente.org / October 15, 2015

Last weekend, Turkey was shook by a double attack carried out at a peace march organized by the Kurdish movement and other communities of the country. So far, over 100 people died. The attack was not a coincidence: since the elections of June 7, the administration of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party (Justice and Development Party — Turkish: Adalet ve Kalkınma Partis, AKP) harshened the repression of the Kurdish people.

“This new and bloody attack against the Kurdish people is not unlike the attacks in Diyarbakir during the elections of June or the ones in Suruç against young socialists who were headed in Kobanî to help with the reconstruction of the city”, says Spanish journalist Manuel Martorell in this interview.

Martorell, author of the books “The Kurds. History of a resistance” and “Kurdistan. Journey to the forbidden land”, also discusses the emergence in the Turkish political scene of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (Turkish: Halkların Demokratik Partisi, HDP), a party driven by the Kurdish movement with other organizations, which won 80 seats in the Legislative Assembly, a result that is considered a historic victory.

With a critical internal situation, next November 1, a new elections will be held in Turkey, because the new government could not be formed after the June elections.

 

What is the aim of the attack in Ankara?

The aim of the double attack in Ankara is to do the most possible damage to the Kurdish political movement in Turkey, it is an act of revenge for the protagonism and the strength that the upcoming PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party — Kurdish: Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan) organizations such as HDP or PYD (Democratic Union Party — Kurdish: Partiya Yekîtiya Demokrat‎), are acquiring in both Turkey and Syria. This new and bloody attack against the Kurdish people is not unlike the attacks in Diyarbakir during the elections of June, or the one in Suruç against young socialists who were going to Kobani to help reconstructing the city. It is not necessary for the Erdogan government to explain why jihadists have it so easy to attack the Kurds while the police and army are concentrated in a vast military operation in Kurdistan. Erdogan recently made it clear: for the Turkish government, the main enemy is the PKK and the Islamic State comes second. It doesn’t take a specialist to understand why the Turkish police, effective in other cases, does not neutralize some jihadist militants who could be easily controlled.

 

What did the emergence of the HDP party mean to the institutional policy of Turkey?

The entry of the HDP in the municipalities and in the Turkish National Assembly was a major step forward in the peace process initiated in 2012 between the PKK and the government of Tayyip Erdogan, because it meant that the Turkish State had to recognize how serious the Kurdish problem was, and accept it as a valid interlocutor to carry out political reforms to put an end to the war in Kurdistan, including a reform of the Constitution that would guarantees the free exercise of democracy and cultural and linguistic diversity of Turkey. The emergence of the HDP in the institutional system was, in short, a great opportunity for peace.

 

Why did Erdogan’s government unleash such a harsh repression against the militants of the HDP and the Kurds of southeast Turkey?

The surprising victory of the HDP in the last elections in June, achieving a parliamentary group of 80 deputies and an great electoral performance in the main Kurdish provinces, has shattered the aspirations of Erdogan, who, for years, has launched a complex political strategy to turn Turkey into a presidential system. After winning the presidential election of 2014 with nearly 60 percent of the votes, Erdogan was convinced that he would win 400 seats in the June elections, more than enough to introduce the presidential system in the Constitution (for that, he needed to get two-thirds of the total parliamentarians, i.e. 366 of the 550 parliamentarians who make up the Turkish National Assembly). After those elections, his whole strategy has collapsed so now, he blames the PKK for his political failure and, in particular, he blames the alleged tolerance he has had with the HDP and other legal Kurdish organizations. Now he seeks to destroy all of this to avoid a new failure on November 1, at the expense of turning Turkey into a bloodbath, and to push the HDP outside of the political system, accusing it of the resumption of the war in Kurdistan. In reality, the vast military offensive that is in process throughout North Kurdistan, the climate of war and terror and the return to the harshest and darkest periods of repression against the Kurdish people are nothing more than an act of personal revenge against HDP for having shattered his dream of becoming the Turkish Obama.

 

Given the difficulty for reaching alliances between parties in Turkey, including the HDP, what is the scenario for the elections in November and what could happen?

Erdogan’s AKP could very well have reached a government agreement, either with the ultra-nationalist MHP (Nationalist Movement Party — Turkish: Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi) or the social-democratic CHP (Republican People’s Party — Turkish: Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi), as reported by the main political leaders of the talks, including the Turkish prime minister. Everyone openly or covertly said that Erdogan does not want a coalition government and that he preferred early elections, held just four months after the elections held in June. These early elections are Erdogan’s new whim, with which a portion of his own party disagree. The real problem is that, after the elections on November 1, we may find that the situation remains the same or that it has become even worse, because a large part of Turkish society, even some who are against the PKK, also hold Erdogan responsible for the current escalation of violence. This fact has been seen in several funerals of soldiers or policemen killed in combat with the PKK, where family and their relatives have strongly criticized the government and the statements of the leaders of the AKP, including Erdogan himself. Everything indicates that on November 1st, the same results are repeated and the electoral support of the Islamist party in the government can drop again.

In the case of a new electoral setback, could Erdogan appeal to some strategy to remain in power?

Honestly, I think a new electoral setback  will mean Erdogan’s political ending. The main Turkish opposition parties (the CHP and the MHP) hold him responsible, as does a part of the Army and much of Turkish society, of the serious political, humanitarian and military crisis that the Republic founded by Ataturk is facing. It is one of the worst periods in its history. Neither those parties nor other powers, including a segment of the Army, will allow him to launch new maneuvers to remain in power without achieving the parliamentary majority needed to govern by himself. I think Turkey is bound to a form a coalition with several parties, and such an agreement necessarily implies the end of the presidential aspirations of Erdogan.

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