Turkey before the same nightmare after 20 years

Turkey before the same nightmare after 20 years

President Tayyip Erdoğan bombed Turkish politics as he departed for China on July 28 with his words about the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the Turkish Parliament.

The president said that he was in principle against the closure of political parties but that parliamentary immunities of HDP deputies should be lifted through a parliamentary vote, so that they could “pay for” their “dealings with the organizations of terror” before the court.

This was in reference to an application the day before by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to the Chief Republic Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals (Yargıtay) to initiate a probe against the political party, which could go as far as closing down the party.

Within hours, Selahattin Demirtaş, co-chairman of the HDP, addressed his party in parliament, saying that all 80 MPs of the HDP were to submit petitions to the parliament on July 29 for the lifting of their immunities. “We are not afraid of you,” he challenged the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) in power; “If you are not afraid as well, let’s lift the immunities altogether.”

Party closures became very difficult after the constitutional amendments in 2010. But lifting the immunity of an MP depends on parliamentary voting. The AK Parti has 258 votes in the 550-seat house but with MHP votes (80 seats) the deficit could easily be closed if it comes to that point.

Both the MHP’s application to the Yargıtay prosecutor and Erdoğan’s endorsing of the move has clearly escalated the political tension amid the talks between the AK Parti and the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP) for a possible coalition government. Also, the ongoing security operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) is another sign that the talks between Ahmet Davutoğlu’s government and the PKK with the intermediation of the HDP are put on hold.

Erdoğan’s words recalled embarrassing memories of 1994, when the immunities of four MPs from the Democracy Party (DEP), one of the predecessors of the HDP, were lifted through parliamentary vote and followed by sentencing them to ten years in jail. That move was later shown as one of the main reasons of the escalation of violence by the PKK. The armed campaign of the PKK has claimed some 40,000 lives since 1984 up until 2012, when talks started between the government and the imprisoned (in 1999) leader of the PKK, which silenced the guns. But since the June 7 elections, which provided a considerable 80-seat representation for the HDP, there is no improvement on the talks front. 

Since the resume of armed actions by the PKK killing soldiers and policemen, Prime Minister Davutoğlu said that it would not be possible to resume talks unless the PKK takes its armed groups outside Turkey as they had promised in 2013. 

One drawback of the anti-PKK operations of the Turkish security, especially of those in Iraq, is it causes concerns among U.S. and European decision makers because of the possibility of jeopardizing cooperation with the Syrian Kurdish group of Democratic Union Party (PYD) against the ISIL. PM Davutoğlu said June 25 that Ankara would differentiate between the PYD and the PKK, unless the PYD commits any “disturbing” actions against Turkey.

On the coalition talks front, the AK Parti and CHP seem distance themselves from each other as their meeting frequency increased. On the other hand, the AK Parti position, especially regarding the Kurdish issue and tough security operations, is getting closer to the traditional MHP approach, bringing with it the possibility of an Ak Parti-MHP coalition back on table, with the conditions of going to an election (not so quickly) with security-focused politics aimed at putting pressure on the HDP.