Some Turks may vote for HDP not because they like it
One of the key factors in Turkey’s early elections on June 24 is whether the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) will be able to exceed the 10 percent national threshold, which is necessary in order for it to enter parliament as a group. The difference between the HDP getting into parliament or not is estimated to be around 60 seats in the 600-seat parliament, and that difference could determine whether the alliance led by President Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) will be able to secure a majority in the legislative body.
The HDP is not guaranteed to exceed the threshold, according to its own officials. The party reached its peak support in the June 2015 election, when it won 13.1 percent of the votes. But when that elections were repeated in November 2015 the HDP’s vote share dropped to 10.5 percent, so it was only just able to enter parliament. The main reason for this dramatic drop in only a few months’ time is seen as the HDP’s failure to stand against the uprising attempt by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) after the end of three years of proxy dialogue with AK Parti governments that summer.
That year also saw Turkey open up its bases to U.S. flights in the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), as well as the U.S.’s pick of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) - the Syrian branch of the PKK – as its ground force against ISIL.
The post-June 2015 violence led to thousands of deaths and massive urban damage in towns where the PKK carried out a “ditches and barricades” armed uprising campaign. This prompted many leftists and liberals, who had voted for the HDP in support of a peaceful solution to Turkey’s chronic Kurdish problem in June 2015, to not do the same in November 2015. Many saw the HDP as failing to sufficiently draw a line between parliamentary politics and acts of terror, even at some stages seeming to encourage the uprising.
Selahattin Demirtaş, the former co-chairman of the HDP who is currently in jail accused of being a member of a terrorist organization, said in court that his party’s stance regarding the PKK’s urban uprising was a mistake. Today, a major obstacle in front of the HDP is the fact that a considerable number of its MPs, mayors and local party officials are now in prison accused of being members of the PKK or assisting it. Erdoğan, AK Parti officials, and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, who is currently in an alliance with Erdoğan, denounce the HDP as a “terror extension party.”
Nevertheless, there seems to be a growing tendency among not only left-wing and liberal voters, but also among voters of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and conservative Kurdish voters, to vote for the HDP in the parliamentary election on June 24. It is true that a number of Turks are now again seriously considering a vote for the HDP, not because they like or support it but simply because they want to help it get into parliament and thus prevent President Erdoğan from gaining a parliamentary majority.
We will see whether those tactical votes will work in just a few days.