What does Öcalan think about the presidential election?
Regarding the course of the Kurdish issue, there is a truly perplexing situation. We are seeing two separate perspectives, which are exactly the opposite of each other.
For example, when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent discourse is reviewed, we see that he has started using extremely tough language against the Kurdish political movement. Erdoğan has prioritized the issue of children joining or being kidnapped by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and he is using insulting words against figures from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) such as calling the party’s co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş a “liar.”
On the other hand, tension in the southeast is rising step by step. Upon the closing of the Diyarbakır-Bingöl highway by groups supporting the PKK, the organizing of an operation of military units may have caused the eruption of an environment of clashes.
When you regard all these developments as a whole, you may rule that the peace process has come to a stop and that the old days are back in the southeast. Actually, it’s not quite so…
It’s not so, because there are strong signs that the peace process is gaining a new momentum. For example, Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay said in a TV interview on Kanal 7 last Sunday, “New decisions have been taken to get new momentum. It was decided that a new, more concrete road map should be drawn up with rapid steps that lead to a result.” There is also the holding of a workshop held Friday in Diyarbakır with top ministers of the Cabinet and opinion leaders from the Kurdish population.
The BDP delegation that visited İmralı last Sunday also indicated that Abdullah Öcalan was “hopeful” about the course of the peace process. Sırrı Süreyya Önder from the delegation spoke to daily Özgür Gündem, saying “Öcalan’s talks with the state have become more frequent and, for the first time, a political will has appeared.”
The calendar that the government will prepare - in other words, the road map - Önder said, is expected to be declared within two to three weeks, once it is approved by both sides. The impressions that the BDP delegation received from Öcalan in İmralı and the statements from Atalay overlap.
Probably, in the coming months, we will be navigating in a unique dual atmosphere in which both the tension and the process will unfold simultaneously. Behind this situation, one important factor is the calculation toward the presidential election.
Prime Minister Erdoğan knows that the BDP’s 6.5 percent Kurdish votes have a strategic importance in the presidential elections. The BDP’s support, in the event that he runs for the office, may facilitate – theoretically- Erdoğan’s election in the first round. If the BDP participates in the first round with its own candidate and Erdoğan needs the second round, again Kurdish votes will have a critical importance.
While Erdoğan is weighing this factor, he is making a commitment of a new road map to Öcalan and the Kurdish political movement, making them feel that he will further carry the initiative ahead and thus demonstrating a flexibility that may draw BDP votes to his side.
However, the prime minister, at the same time, is also eyeing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) votes to pull his vote ratio higher. In this context, he is giving messages aiming to appeal to a segment of MHP votes by attacking the BDP.
It looks difficult for Erdoğan to secure the support of the BDP in the first round. Öcalan has previously said it would be correct if the party has a candidate in the first round.
It looks as if the BDP, will at least show Erdoğan that it has the capacity to prevent him from being elected president in the first round, then start negotiating with him in the second round. If there is a second round, what would the BDP do? What does Öcalan think about this? In the same interview, Önder said, “Ours will be the power of peace. For those people who have to take the second round, a democratic politics that is not on the agenda for today’s given conditions, will be on the agenda. They will need to develop a principled stance. We will be together with those who will. We do not act with an embargo, a rejection or an acceptance in advance. This is a significant turning point for peace and democratic politics in this country. This is in our hands, not theirs. It is the votes we will gain in the first round and the profile of the candidate we will nominate.”
As it can be seen, Öcalan is making others feel that they should choose the side that develops a democratic stance for the Kurdish issue if it comes to a second round. The steps of the government could also be assessed from this point.