THE CORRIDOR - CHP needing Kurdish votes to reach 30 percent target

THE CORRIDOR - CHP needing Kurdish votes to reach 30 percent target

Turkey’s political parties have finalized their deputy candidate lists for the June 12 general elections, and the nominees from East and Southeast Anatolia give clues about their goals in the region.

The “unassertive” candidates from the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, indicate that the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, will easily reach their goals of building a wide coalition of different groups from right to left, from Islamists to Kurdish radicals.

The Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, is not effective in the region anyway. During a conversation with journalists, the MHP’s parliamentary group acting chair Mehmet Şandır said MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli would not go to the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, which gives the BDP’s a higher chance. According to Şandır, the reason behind MHP’s lack of ambition is a “fear of provocation,” but the fact is is that the party has no power in the southeast.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, has emerged with serious offers in the region for the first time in years. In the 2007 general elections, the CHP failed to get what they wanted in the southeast. In that period, the party focused on “military and economic solutions” to the Kurdish question, rather than political solutions. Even the remarks of Deniz Baykal, the former CHP leader, were considered “nationalist” at that time. The CHP naturally failed to win seats from most of the eastern and southeastern provinces, Diyarbakır, Hakkari, Şırnak, Batman and Van in particular.

Does CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu want to reverse the situation? He has appointed human rights advocate Sezgin Tanrıkulu as deputy leader, held conferences in search of candidates, promised new openings, as well as a “third way,” but none of these suggestions have proven to be adequate.

But all this does mean that the CHP is still trying. Their efforts finally grabbed Kurdish attention, but it has not been enough. Kurds in the region are not expected to turn their back on the two strong actors, the AKP and BDP, so suddenly.

Kılıçdaroğlu must be aware of this fact and was in search of some tactical methods for deputy candidate selection in the region. The CHP leader must also have realized how difficult it is to convince Kurdish voters through political initiatives, so Kılıçdaroğlu gave place to influential names and strong tribal leaders on the lists.

Diyarbakır has 10 deputies in Parliament. In 2007, the AKP had six, and the BDP had four seats. This time, the number increases to 11. The BDP is ambitious again in Diyarbakır with deputy candidates such as Leyla Zana, Hatip, Dicle, Emine Ayna, Altan Tan and Şerafettin Elçi. Five of them will definitely be elected.

The AKP has placed Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker on the first row and Diyarbakır Chamber of Commerce President Galip Ensarioğlu in second. But his cousin, Salim Ensarioğlu, is an independent candidate, so that might cause a split in votes.

Salih Sümer is the CHP’s deputy candidate from Diyarbakır. He was once elected from the former True Path Party, or DYP, and served as a minister. The AKP’s Eker and the CHP’s Sümer, however, belong to the same tribe.

The AKP nominated Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek from Batman. He will run against the BDP’s influential candidates, Ayla Akat Ata and Bengi Yıldız. The CHP has intentions of remaining in this race though a “tactical” candidate again. In the CHP’s Batman list, Farih Özdemir is placed on the first row. Özdemir is from the Raman tribe and a former DYP deputy. This is likely to increase the CHP’s chance. In 2007, the four seats were split equally between the AKP and the BDP.

Another province the CHP targets for deputies is Van. The AKP’s Hüseyin Çelik is a key player here, but has been nominated from the southeastern city of Gaziantep. Other names, except Gülşen Orhan, who entered the list from the 4th row, were scrapped. Ankara deputy Burhan Kayatürk is in the first row, but has been criticized for neglecting his electoral region. The CHP in Van joins the race with Zahir Kandaşoğlu, who is the current chairman of the Van Industry and Trade Chamber but was formerly the 10-year-long chairman of the Union of Chamber of Commerce and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey, or TOBB. He is said to have a chance in the province.

One of the CHP’s tactical candidates is from the province of Bingöl. The city has three deputies and the AKP won all of them last time. The CHP nominated Zeki Korkutata, a cousin of former Welfare Party, or RP, deputy Hüsamettin Korkutata. Even if they win no seats in Bingöl, the CHP might increase its votes here.

The main opposition party also wants to have tribal members on board in the region. The CHP aims to see deputy seats won in the east and southeast on the evening of June 12 and increase its votes as much as possible.

Kılıçdaroğlu has seen that it will not be easy to reach the 30 percent target without going beyond the Central Anatolian province of Sivas – in other words, without having any Kurdish votes.