AK Party and the HDP
The correct principle on the topic of parliamentary immunities is to do what the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has said. Yes, don’t be surprised. In their 2001 party program, they said exactly this: “Immunity will be regarded as a whole, together with the obstacles and privileges of all public employees that stand in the way of being tried. It should be restricted to the votes and speeches of the deputies in the parliament.”
The AK Party, even though it has pledged this to the nation, never attempted to restrict the immunity of deputies to only “their votes and words during parliamentary work.” Moreover, it used this immunity as a shield to cover up corruption investigations.
This immunity issue is a typical example on how the AK Party set out with the correct “factory settings” and how these adjustments deteriorated as its ruling power increased.
Our topic today is the lifting of the parliamentary immunities of the deputies of Kurdish-issue-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). With consent of all parties, if the constitution is changed to restrict the immunity to “the vote and words during parliamentary work,” then this general adjustment would be very appropriate. However, instead of this, if they chose to specifically lift the immunities of certain HDP deputies, this would be wrong.
I also regard the words and actions of some HDP deputies as probably eligible for legal investigation. However, to cover up the corruption investigations with the shield of immunity but then go for some HDP deputies will not only be unfair; it will also serve the HDP grassroots to incline toward the radicals.
On March 1994, the immunities of deputies Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle and the late Orhan Doğan were lifted and they were imprisoned. This practice deterred nobody from the Kurdish movement; on the contrary, it added to more radicalism. Actually, the image of “being blocked from the political path” increased tension among the Kurdish electorate and made the situation more advantageous for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). It also created an opportunity for the PKK to create propaganda in the European Parliament.
The president wants the immunities to be lifted but I would like to draw the attention of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to two issues. One is that HDP Istanbul deputy Sebahat Tuncel was sentenced to eight years because of being a member of a terror organization but as a result of individual application, she was re-tried and acquitted. With the changes introduced to criminal and procedural laws by the AK Party government and also with the relevant practices of the European Court of Human Rights and the Constitutional Court, the probability of imprisonment in such cases has shrunk incredibly. Even mentioning the lifting of immunities would only be good for fuelling the issue.
As all academic research has shown, these kinds of movements are nurtured by tension and clashes. They enlarge their grassroots by disintegrating masses. In Group of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK) texts, it is openly written, “Liberal democracy would loosen us.”
This is why they have sabotaged the resolution process. While fighting terror, the political tension should also be kept low.
It was also seen in the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Basque Country and Freedom (ETA) experiences that instead of forcing the moderates and radicals to coalesce in a separatist movement, it is a better approach in the long run to make the differences stand out.
It is natural that the state responds to terror with arms. However, discourses like the closures of political parties and lifting of immunities and other actions as to exclude the HDP altogether weakens the principle of “the place of a solution is the parliament.” It will be something like suicide.
The Kurdish issue is Turkey’s at least 40-year-old, extremely serious issue. Even while conducting a military operation against terror, the language used and policy applied should be compatible with the aim of drawing the separatist movement into democracy.
Deputies of the AK Party and HDP who have personal relationships with each other should keep their contact channels open and continue with meeting traffic.