To solve or not to solve the Kurdish problem

To solve or not to solve the Kurdish problem

The political scene is converging into clarity faster than could be expected for a possible grand cooperation on Turkey’s chronic Kurdish problem.

The original proposal by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the country’s socially democratic main opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), was to have a ‘Societal Conciliation Commission’ in the Parliament to create a road map for a solution. His model was the existing commission tasked with writing a brand new constitution for the country, in which existed an equal number of members from all four parties currently in Turkish parliament.

It was a surprise for many that Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan immediately confirmed the appointment request of Kılıçdaroğlu. His Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) had actually initiated a plan which is widely known as the ‘Kurdish opening’ in the spring of 2009, but it has so far failed to produce the desired result. The government was not in a comfortable position, especially following the Uludere blunder late December 2011, in which 34 smugglers were killed after being mistaken as militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) while crossing the Iraqi border into Turkey. The whole picture became more complicated as Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli gave his support to Erdoğan’s Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin, who was under criticism even from within the AK Parti because of statements he made regarding the Uludere incident. A tendency of AK Parti-MHP cooperation with possible extensions for the constitutional work has been the talk of the political corridor in Ankara when Kılıçdaroğlu’s proposal hit the agenda.

The MHP had already refused to talk about the issue (with a rejection to naming it as the Kurdish problem as well) with the CHP as Erdoğan accepted it.

Erdoğan, in his meeting with Kılıçdaroğlu on June 6 carried the proposal a step further and said that if the CHP failed to convince the MHP and the Kurdish problem focused Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), he was still ready to continue cooperation with the CHP on the Kurdish issue.

This was a real surprise and serves as the first opportunity in Turkish history for two main parties, representing two rival political lines and a total of 86 percent of the votes, to look eye-to-eye to find a consensus for the Kurdish problem which has claimed more than 40,000 lives in the last three decades.

Following the MHP rejection, the BDP announced they wouldn’t agree to take part in a commission to discuss the Kurdish problem with the MHP. And without the MHP’s participation representing the Turkish nationalism fringe of the Parliamentary politics, it is not likely that the BDP, representing the Kurdish nationalism fringe, will be a part of it. Despite the CHP’s insistence on having a four party consensus, it is likely that the two main parties will have to form a grand cooperation for the Kurdish problem.

An AK Parti-CHP cooperation could actually produce a more conceptual package than a four-party one, which will possibly produce nearly nothing with reciprocal vetoes from the MHP and BDP of each other’s proposals.

It seems the opportunity to find a solution to the Kurdish problem in Turkey, with possible positive effects spreading to the whole region, is there and the responsibility of doing so is on the shoulders of both Erdoğan and Kılıçdaroğlu.