Does Erdoğan want the HDP to quit the Kurdish bid before elections?

Does Erdoğan want the HDP to quit the Kurdish bid before elections?

It was President Tayyip Erdoğan who initiated the talks between the government and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in pursuit of a political solution to Turkey’s Kurdish problem when he was prime minister back in 2012.

Every step taken so far has been under his control or approval, from talks carried out by intelligence chief Hakan Fidan with the PKK’s imprisoned leader Abdullah Öcalan and the mediation efforts by the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) between the government and the PKK headquarters, the formation of a Monitoring Committee, which was suggested as a condition by Öcalan for the peace negotiations to begin, and Öcalan’s call to the PKK to put an end to the armed struggle, which he did on March 21.

Right before Öcalan’s call on March 21, Erdoğan unexpectedly said he objected to the formation of the Monitoring Committee. He also said it was wrong for the government to take a picture together with HDP deputies when both parties showed their commitment to the peace-oriented talks on Feb. 28. The latest row has caused authority issues within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) to emerge.

Meanwhile, Erdoğan has been reiterating his statements that there was no Kurdish problem left in Turkey, there was only the problem of terrorism by the PKK and no further steps would be taken before the PKK abandons arms; which is not only hardening his line a lot but also getting the AK Parti rhetoric closer to that of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

Yesterday on March 25, Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan, who has been carrying out the talks with the HDP delegations on  behalf of the government, strongly accused the HDP of “spoiling the process,” adding that whatever Erdoğan says was an order for him and the government. Apart from declaring his stance on Erdoğan’s side versus Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu with an eye on the June 7 election, Akdoğan’s remarks mean something more when combined with another move by the AK Parti group in parliament. The AK Parti reactivated a controversial security bill in parliament which was shelved before Öcalan’s.

It is as if Erdoğan and the AK Parti want to see the HDP quit the talks before the elections by playing on their nerves. If such a thing happens, it would be easy for Erdoğan and the AK Parti to accuse them of spoiling the peace process and go back to security-based policies. There has been speculation in the political corridor that Erdoğan, who wants a clear majority to institute the presidential model with extended powers after the elections, might be worried about losing Turkish nationalist and Kurdish conservative votes because of the Kurdish peace process with the PKK; a strong HDP presence in parliament could mean an end to Erdoğan’s target.

But HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş is seemingly calm, as he said yesterday they would like to continue the talks with or without a Monitoring Committee during a visit to Caucassian associations in another attempt to widen his voter base out of his traditional Kurdish votes. The HDP staying calm until the elections could have them reaping political rewards in the future.