The risk of misreading the message of Kurdish votes

The risk of misreading the message of Kurdish votes

To have a healthy analysis of election results you first have to have reliable input. The controversy over claims of vote irregularities is still in the air and it is the responsibility of the governing party as well as opposition parties to clear the air.

It might be in the interest of the governing party to keep the fog, as it fuels debates within opposition parties and has a demoralizing impact among their supporters. So although their stance is unacceptable, it is explainable.

However, the only reason stopping opposition parties from coming to the fore and from being held accountable for their failure to crosscheck the results could only be their anxiety to reveal their incompetence. As long as they keep continuing to hide their incompetence, they should not expect to increase their voting basis, as no supporters of the ruling party will be convinced to trust state matters into the hands of the opposition.

As in the past, we will have to rely on the analysis of certain polling companies. Konda is one of the most prominent and reliable ones, whose estimates about the June 24 elections were the closest to the outcome.

Having done a thorough analysis of the results of the April 16, 2017 referendum, Konda had drawn attention to the vote irregularities in certain Central Anatolian and Black Sea provinces, underlining the fact that having almost no invalid votes in most of the ballot boxes in these areas was not normal.

Bekir Ağırdır, the general director of Konda, was cautious in talking about the June 24 election outcome, especially in the southeast. He said they would go over the results in each ballot box in the region.

In terms of the rise in the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) votes in the southeast, he first cautioned about the risk of looking at ratios, only as this might lead to misleading conclusions. A 50 percent rise in a province might sound like a lot, but if this was a rise from 2,000 to 3,000, it might not be that significant, Ağırdır told me in an interview published in Hürriyet Daily News on July 2.

“But you cannot expect 20 percent of the votes cast in the November 2015 elections for the HDP [Peoples’ Democratic Party] to shift to the MHP, especially in a region administered by 85 government appointed trustees. This is an input you cannot explain politically or sociologically, so we will have an in debt analysis,” he said.

Konda’s final concluding report will come out on July 30. But Ağırdır said he has seen a drop of around 300,000 in HDP votes compared to the Nov. 1 elections at a fast first glance. “Let’s not forget this makes only 0.5 percent. However, these votes did not go to the Justice and Development Party [AKP]. The AKP’s votes have dropped around 60,000,” he said.

That is the point where he started to warn about drawing the wrong conclusions from the election results in terms of the Kurdish issue.

“AKP supporters claim Kurdish votes went back to the AKP in the southeast. But there is a drop in AKP votes. The votes for İnce [the Republican People’s Party’s presidential candidate] and the MHP, etc. are on the rise. We will see what happened to these 300,000 votes. Did HDP voters refrain from casting their votes? Did they vote for the MHP? We will see that after our analysis,” he said.

AKP supporters claim the drop in the HDP indicates a dissatisfaction with the policies of the HDP, as well as the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) stance in the region and its stance in Iraq and Syria.

According to Ağırdır, Kurds stood behind the HDP. “By doing so, they said, ‘we have an issue.’ In addition, they shape their fate based on the future of the country. They could have avoided the ballot box. In each election and referendum for the past four years, against claims that they will join hands with the ruling party, Kurds have maintained an opposing position,” he said.

The message for Turkey and the parliament is the Kurdish issue cannot be solved by ignoring the Kurdish party, said Ağırdır.

However, the HDP also needs to draw conclusions by looking at the results and developments in Iraq and Syria, Ağırdır argued. “If the HDP will not make an effort to change by endorsing a more pluralistic and democratic stance within itself, it will be a prisoner of identity politics of which the other parties are suffering from,” he said.

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