On the eve of what is touted as Turkey’s most comprehensive election in its political history, the Kurdish community is set to conduct primary elections this weekend, 13-14 January, across 90 election districts. This initiative, a first of its kind, marks a significant shift in the conventional candidate selection process, reflecting a deep commitment to direct democracy.
These elections, involving nearly 100,000 delegates, will be held in various Kurdish-majority cities, including Diyarbakır (Amed), Mardin (Mêrdîn), Van (Wan), and Batman (Elih). Notably, in Diyarbakır alone, 20,000 individuals are expected to participate. The process, which has been meticulously planned over several months, aims to empower local communities to choose their representatives for the upcoming municipal elections.
This novel approach transcends traditional political practices. Instead of being confined to party headquarters, the pre-election excitement spills into the streets and neighbourhoods, reflecting a grassroots movement. Candidates have been actively engaging with the public, presenting their projects and visions for women, youth, and environmental issues through live broadcasts and public discussions. Approximately 4,000 individuals are contesting for various positions, including co-mayors of municipalities, municipal council members, and provincial general council members.
The party’s stance is clear: the outcome of these primaries will be respected and upheld. This initiative emphasises local consensus and broad participation, extending beyond party members to include non-governmental organisations, professional associations, former party officials, and others. The process aims to ensure equitable representation, with a particular emphasis on gender equality.
In addition to the primary elections, discussions with the Republican People’s Party (CHP) have taken place, focusing on collaborative efforts for the upcoming local elections, scheduled for 31 March 2024. The talks covered various critical issues, including the local election strategies, the trustee regime, the judicial crisis, the economic situation, and peaceful, democratic solutions to the Kurdish issue. While no concrete decisions have been made yet, both parties’ relevant commissions will continue their work, and updates will be provided to the public in a transparent manner.
This pioneering approach by the Kurds is not merely a tactical move for local elections but a fundamental shift towards enhancing local democracy and representation. The party’s commitment to fair and democratic practices is evident in their preparations and the establishment of commissions to address any potential grievances during the primaries. In the event of no candidate achieving a majority, a second round of voting will be held to determine the party’s co-mayor candidates.
Amidst this democratic fervour, concerns about election manipulation, such as inflated voter registrations and questionable voter records, have been raised. Instances in Şırnak and Iğdır have been highlighted, where suspicious increases in voter numbers and dubious residential registrations were noted. The party has assured that these issues are being closely monitored and legal measures will be taken against any electoral fraud.
This initiative signifies a significant stride towards strengthening local democracy and governance. The Kurds, aware of their pivotal role in the election, are determined to counter any irregularities and ensure the genuine representation of the people’s will. The success of these primaries could set a precedent for democratic processes in Turkey, showcasing the Kurds’ commitment to a more inclusive and representative political landscape.