A victory for democracy? Turkey's uncertain future

A victory for democracy? Turkey's uncertain future
Comment: The future of Erdogan's Turkey largely depends on the Kurdish struggle, but many of these struggles will now take place in the parliament and not in the mountains.
4 min read
12 Jun, 2015
The Turkish public still awaits their president's comments on the elections [Getty]

The success of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) with more than 13 percent of the vote - winning 80 seats in parliament - strengthens not only the Kurdish movement in Turkey, but also the country's democratic, liberal and leftist forces.

HDP is the first political party organised by Kurds in Turkey that has managed to come out of the Kurdish ghetto.

HDP is not only a Kurdish party. It is also a party for young progressive Turks in Istanbul, Izmir and Ankara. It is a party for Armenians, Syriacs, Yezidis, Arabs, LGBT-definers and other often-marginalised groups.

It also is a party for progressive intellectuals all over Turkey. The popularity of its leader, Selahattin Demirtas, expands beyond the classic Kurdish electorate.

The party had a powerful election campaign that capitalised on the attacks of President Erdogan, exploiting them to further demonstrate their difference from the mainstream business-as-usual politics of division.

For many Turks, a vote for the HDP was not only a vote for a peaceful solution of the Kurdish question, but also against the rule of AKP and its vision for the country.

Attacks on HDP meetings did not lead to a militant uprising, as Demirtas managed to calm down his supporters. Thus all attempts to denounce HDP as a party of terrorists failed, and the party became a vehicle to integrate the supporters of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) into the political process.

The success at the ballot boxes - despite alleged attempts at electoral fraud - demonstrates that there are possibilities for Kurdish political organising other than the traditional armed struggle.

     The success at the ballot boxes demonstrates possibilities for Kurdish political organising other than armed struggle.

The new parliament also includes various members of ethnic and religious minorities in Turkey. In the first time since the 1960s, three Armenians were elected - and only one of them for the HDP.

Garo Paylan was elected for the HDP, Selina Dogan for the CHP and Markar Esayan for the AKP.

There are two members of the Yezidi community - Feleknas Uca and Ali Atalan - and an Assyrian, Erol Dora, elected for HDP.

Ozcan Purcu (CHP) is the first Turkish Roma to be elected to the Turkish parliament.

It is the first time in history that the Turkish parliament includes Yezidis and Roma, the two most marginalised ethnic minorities in Turkey.


AKP lost its absolute majority and is now in need for a coalition partner. Neither the extreme right-wing nationalist MHP nor the Kemalist CHP nor the HDP seem keen on forming any such alliance with AKP.

An anti-AKP coalition, meanwhile, formed between the CHP, HDP and MHP, is implausible. The MHP and HDP disagree not only on the Kurdish question, but in virtually every field of policy.

Due to the extreme nationalist position of the MHP, an AKP-MHP government would be a major threat for the peace process with the Kurds.

Demirtas, the HDP leader, has already rejected a coalition with the AKP. The CHP and AKP are, meanwhile, diametrically opposed concerning the role of Islam in Turkey.

Thus, Turkey is awaiting politically troubled times. It is possible that the frustration at the ruling AKP by parts of the electorate could lead to splinter groups splitting from the main party in a more militant future.

Already, Turkey has tens of thousands of supporters for extremist groups in Syria, including the Islamic State group and the Nusra Front - al-Qaeda's local franchise. Political violence against the HDP was nothing unusual before the elections.

     It is improbable that Erdogan will become merely a representative president of Turkey.

However, the elections did not stop the circle of violence.

While deadly clashes between supporters of the Kurdish-Islamist Huda Par and supporters of the HDP erupted in Diyarbakir/Amed on Tuesday, a church was attacked in Istanbul.

A man reportedly shouting "Allahu akbar" threw a Molotov cocktail at the Greek orthodox church of Aya Triada in Istanbul's Kadikoy quarter.

The big question is what the reaction will be of President Erdogan, who is still the strongman behind the ruling AKP.

Will he accept the end of his dream of a presidential republic? Will he step down and return to the leadership of his party? Will he try to use loyal forces in the security apparatus for an authoritarian solution for Turkey?

It is improbable that Erdogan will become merely a representative president of Turkey - as the present Turkish constitution defines the role.

The political problems of Turkey will only intensify in the future.

If the economic bubble bursts, social conflicts will become stronger and possibly more violent. The good news is that the victory of HDP enables the Kurds and the left to continue with their struggle from within the political establishment.

Thomas Schmidinger is a political science lecturer at the University of Vienna and teaches intercultural social work at the University of Applied Science, Vorarlberg. He is also secretary general of the Austrian Society for Kurdish Studies and has recently published a book on Rojava.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.