Is Erdoğan a bigger threat than a jailed leader and if so, what next?

Is Erdoğan a bigger threat than a jailed leader and if so, what next?

If 10 years ago we were told that a significant number from the secular part of society will be relying on what they perceive to be the political wing of a separatist, terrorist Kurdish organization to secure democracy in Turkey, few would have believed it.

We have a Turkish saying: The one that falls in the sea gets hold of the snake. I am pretty sure there is a considerable number of people who used to cast their votes for the Republican People’s Party (CHP) have this time chosen to vote for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). This tells us that even those who hated the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) hated the idea of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan arbitrarily ruling this country even more. In their view; Erdoğan’s one-man rule posed a bigger threat than the political wing of a terrorist organization. 

If these elections are important in striking a serious blow to Erdoğan’s political ambitions, they were also crucial in seeing society’s approach to the Kurdish issue.

There is no doubt that the HDP passed the threshold thanks to the Kurds who used to vote for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The significant amount of losses the AKP has suffered in the south and southeast demonstrates this fact. 

In Iğdır, for instance, the AKP fell from 28 percent (in 2011) to 11 percent, while the HDP increased its votes from 31.5 to 55.9 percent. In Ağrı, the AKP’s votes went down to 16.5 from 47.6 percent. 

To a much lesser degree, the HDP won the CHP’s votes too. If before the elections, the polls indicated that the HDP would safely pass the threshold the amount of votes that went from the CHP would have been much less. Because the electorate was told before June 7 that the HDP’s probability to pass the threshold was on the edge, some CHP voters did not gamble, in fear of seeing the AKP and thus Erdoğan getting a very strong mandate if the HDP were to remain below the threshold.

Having said that, the votes that went from the CHP to the HDP did not only belong to those who said, “I don’t like them but I like AKP and Erdoğan even less.” Part of the CHP voters that slipped to the HDP not only supports the peace process but also felt close to the program voiced by its co-chairman, Selahattin Demirtaş, who undoubtedly played a crucial role by his soft rhetoric in luring CHP voters.  This also is important input for the future of the Turkish – Kurdish reconciliation, as is the fact that, despite an important amount of votes, the AKP still managed to get 40.9 percent. This tells us that for AKP voters, though they might be pleased or displeased to varying degrees about the Kurdish solution process, they don’t object to it, since it is the AKP that started it and no doubt was expected to continue it after elections.

While the AKP lost votes to the HDP, a significant amount of its voters deserted the ruling party for the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which registered a rise of 3 percent compared to the 2011 elections.

Should we jump immediately to the conclusion that the MHP increased its votes because of electorate discontent about the solution process? Can’t we assume that at least part of the desertion came from conservatives that are disappointed by the AKP’s third term in power and lured by the MHP’s economic election promises?

Let’s not forget that the conservative electorate has punished the MHP for a long time as it held it responsible for the economic crisis of 2001. It took a long time to forget that. The fact that Durmuş Yılmaz, the former governor of the Central Bank which played a key role in the AKP’s initial success in securing economic stability, has joined the MHP ranks might not have gone unnoticed. The significant jump the MHP has registered in Uşak, for instance, where Durmuş was nominated can be seen as proof of that.

Now, let’s recap. We have around 41 percent of the electorate who voted for the AKP, which could be understood as a tacit consent to the solution process.

Without forgetting that we have some who are very cold to the solution process among the “lent” voters of the CHP, we might assume that around 10 percent and plus of HDP votes can be accepted as a green light to negotiations.

Though it harbors voters who are against the solution process, the CHP never objected to the idea of reconciliation; it has objected to the way it was conducted. So we can safely say that a majority of CHP electorate gives a tacit concern to the Turkish – Kurdish reconciliation.

When you sum this up, we might conclude that a big majority is pleased to different degrees with the solution process or it does not have a major objection.

That leaves us with the MHP that said it is totally against the negotiations. As it has become a key player in the formation of a new government, the MHP should analyze carefully to what degree it has increased its votes due to its objection to the solution process. In view of the big majorities approach to the issue, it should decide whether it wants to remain a single issue party on the fringes or explore the possibility to carve a bigger portion of conservative voters from the AKP and become a bigger contender in the center right. Even if it chooses to remain in the fringes, can it bear the responsibility to turn its back to peace negotiations and trigger tension and conflict?