Possible scenarios of the government-PKK negotiations
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government is pursuing an Abdullah Öcalan-centered policy to resolve the Kurdish question. This policy not only empowered the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Öcalan, but also was a surprise for the society. Öcalan suddenly became the legitimate, powerful and sole representative of the new era. The current state of affairs is of vital importance for Turkey’s future, and the Kurds themselves, in light of the government’s strategy, regional developments and the conditions of the Kurds. The most important question is about the direction this process can take.
I think there are four different scenarios. First of all, there is the best-case scenario in which everything goes according to Erdoğan’s plan: Öcalan and his team act accordingly, negotiations move on and public opinion shows understanding. Then, after two summers without violence, Erdoğan easily wins the presidential elections. Alternatively, he might succeed in changing the Constitution and become the president under presidentialism.
The second scenario involves a division within the PKK. As the process unfolds, a dissatisfied group within the political and military wing of the PKK might trigger a division. This group could be described as the ones loyal to Öcalan or those who betrayed him. What matters is that the only group that can survive in the long run is the one who controls the front organization. Without the logistic and popular support, a new component in the military wing will neither be effective nor have a long life. On the other hand, a division within the political wing will not affect the ongoing process.
In the third scenario, negotiations fail. The questions of “how” and “when” equally matter. If negotiations fail after the local elections, this is good news for Erdoğan in the short term. Negotiations might fail under two conditions. First, Öcalan sets the bar ever higher and pushes Erdoğan into a difficult position. Secondly, Erdoğan cannot withstand the pressure coming from the opposition, especially the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
In the final scenario, a division among the Kurds might become more visible and trigger an armed conflict. The fact that the government considers Öcalan and the PKK as the sole interlocutor in the management of the Kurdish question has made those who hate the PKK unhappy. Among the unhappy are not only the Islamist Kurds and the local opponents of the PKK, but also some state and non-state actors who support them. Experience shows that these groups’ opposition will not be bound by the law, but can turn out to be an armed and seriously violent one. Such an intra-Kurdish conflict is always possible. In this case, the government can neither manage a complete disarmament, nor continue to negotiate. We will wait and see which scenario takes hold.