Re-elections can turn into a referendum for peace process

Re-elections can turn into a referendum for peace process

“I like democracy when democracy likes me,” a veteran Turkish journalist used to say mockingly, criticizing Turkish political figures for twisting democratic concepts as it suits them.

This is very reminiscent of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s current approach.

He is crystal clear about it.

“I like Kurds [and therefore the peace process] when the Kurds like [meaning vote for] me. I don’t like them [and therefore I don’t mind the outbreak of violence] when they don’t like me [that is, don’t vote for me].”

This is exactly what he meant when he officially ended the peace process July 28 morning when he spoke before leaving for China.

Whatever Erdoğan and his aides in the government, including Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, say is not convincing at all.

The change of strategy on the Kurdish issue (and it is a change despite their denial) comes as a result of the loss of votes in the June 7 election.

Both the president and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) have a two-fold strategy in their preparations for a reelection.

The first part of the strategy is to lure nationalist votes that went to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and get the AKP voters who abstained from voting to go to the ballot box. 

The second part of the strategy is to marginalize the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) so that it will lose votes, because the loss of the HDP serves the AKP. By this strategy, the AKP is aiming to lure the voters who chose the lesser of the two evils. Some voters opted for the HDP not because they endorsed its policies, because it was the party that will give the biggest harm to the AKP. Erdoğan plays to the HDP skeptics who might feel their mistrust for the Kurdish party due to its links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which they hate, are vindicated by the recent wave of violence. The message is: “Opt for the AKP as the lesser of two evils.”

“I lent my vote to the HDP but now I became more loyal to the HDP,” said the Facebook posting of a famous public relations expert.

Obviously this is not representative of the mindset of all those who lent their votes to the HDP. It is of course too early to judge whether the AKP’s strategy to gain enough votes to form a single-party government in reelections in autumn will work or backfire.

Whatever the result, perhaps the voters should be given the chance to vote on the new circumstances and the new AKP policy on the Kurdish issue.

The AKP seems to forget that one of the reasons behind its success and what kept it in power was the bold steps it took to solve the decades-old political problems of this country, whether it was non-Muslim minorities, the Alevi opening or the Kurdish peace process. On all similar initiatives, it made a good beginning and inspired hopes but could not bring any of them to an end. Still, it reaped the benefits, especially of the Kurdish opening. The relative calm was also incremental in the image Turkey projected abroad as a beacon of stability in the region.

Erdoğan might think the AKP and himself have lost blood because of the Kurdish process. No doubt Kurds have deserted the AKP. But it might be a mistake on the part of the AKP to blame only the Kurdish issue as the reason behind the loss of votes. 

The deterioration of the economic situation, the corruption allegations and Erdoğan’s personal ambitions might have also played a role in the desertion of the nationalist votes; a hawkish stance might not lure them back.

At any rate, the AKP has officially changed its attitude on one of Turkey’s most vital issues. This change of attitude promises more bloodshed, more instability and more chaos. At least the people should decide by approving or disapproving this new stance.

No doubt the PKK is equally to blame for the new wave of violence which has broken out in the country. It might look ironic, but if the HDP gets the same amount of votes, it will not automatically mean an approval of the PKK’s warmongering but rather an approval of the HDP’s peaceful policies.