Erdoğan fails to manage the Kurdish process in Parliament

Erdoğan fails to manage the Kurdish process in Parliament

“What kind of brazenfaced people are you?” Muharrem İnce, the populist spokesman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) shouted at deputies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) with exaggerated gestures. “We do not want to do anything with you. I do not want my name to appear in such a document next to your names. Now, we are leaving the hall for you to enjoy cooperation with your fellows,” he said, before joining his party deputies in a walk out of the Turkish Parliament’s General Assembly on April 9.

Just before İnce, it was Oktay Vural, the bitter-tongued spokesman for the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), doing the same, only with more striking words: “We leave the floor of the Parliament for you and the PKK,” he said, implying the shared grassroots between the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) group in Parliament. The “fellows” mentioned by the CHP spokesman were also meant to refer to the BDP.

The walk outs of two sizeable opposition parties really did leave the AK Parti with the sole support of the BDP. This is the last picture that Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan would like to give to the public in the critical ongoing process to find a political solution for Turkey’s chronic Kurdish problem. The reactions of the CHP and the MHP were for a maneuver by the AK Parti to get parliamentary approval for the establishment of a joint parliamentary commission on the Kurdish “peace process,” as Erdoğan calls it. This would have combined the AK Parti proposal with parts of a former CHP proposal, which had suggested a parliamentary eye over the whole process, including the dialogue with Abdullah Öcalan, the PKK’s imprisoned leader, and its targets

The MHP has already rejected any involvement with any part of the process, claiming that there is actually no “Kurdish problem” but rather a “terrorism problem” that should be handled with the necessary measures. However, after refusing to join the AK Parti proposal - which was later approved with BDP support - and refusing to give members to such a Commission, the CHP insisted on its original proposal, thus not categorically rejecting dialogue with the PKK, by submitting it to Parliament once again. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the CHP leader, says that before asking for support, the party should understand what the government was aiming for other than the much-repeated “laying down of arms by the PKK.” He said this clarification should be done by Erdoğan.

Erdoğan slams both of the opposition parties hard, denouncing them for betraying the peaceful future of the country. However, there is another factor making the equation more complicated. The PKK (thus, the BDP) wants the CHP included in the process, believing that the legitimacy of the end result will be much higher in the eyes of the public if this is the case. It is true that the CHP is not at all homogenous on the issue, with the progressive and traditionalist wings of the party fighting right in front of the deputies from other parties on the subject, even in the General Assembly hall. It is also true that there are some within the AK Parti who believe that if they corner the CHP enough, some from the progressive wing might splinter off to join themselves, thus gifting them even wider public legitimacy. But it is clear that the AK Parti maneuver has not worked well for such a purpose, resulting in further polarization in the Parliament, instead of decreasing it.

Erdoğan’s performance regarding the dialogue proceedings was in general successful, but so far he has failed to gain parliamentary support for the future steps to be taken in the Kurdish solution process, which he will soon need. Erdoğan has to find a way, or find a way to at least gain the support of the CHP for the project.