Complicated times for HDP, now that it’s still unclear whether the party can participate in the elections on 14 May. It may be closed before that date. This week, the party again asked the Constitutional Court to postpone the final stages of the closure case to after the elections, but it’s unclear for now what the Court will do. If uncertainty remains, HDP may participate in the elections under the name of the Yeşil Sol Parti, Green Left Party. Smart, but then again, it’s problematic that a legitimate party is forced to resort to such measures.
The situation strengthens a thought that I’ve been having since Kılıçdaroğlu was announced as presidential candidate for the Nation Alliance: what would the effect be if HDP ran with its own presidential candidate after all? In the scenario I dream of, it would make everybody happy, except Erdoğan and his crooks.
The Yeşil Sol Parti (YSP) and HDP are no strangers to each other. The YSP is part of the People’s Democratic Congress, a union of a whole lot of left-wing organisations, both Kurdish and Turkish, that was at the roots of the foundation of the HDP in 2012. As such, the HDP is a cooperation of Turkish and Kurdish parties and pays tribute to the Kurdish movement’s roots in the Turkish political left in Ankara in the 1970s.
It’s unclear which candidate MPs will be listed. Part of the closure case against the HDP is the banning from politics of 451 HDP members and MPs, so I assume any of the names implicated in the case won’t be listed. The movement has enough new people to participate, but are they experienced and well known enough among the voter base to enthuse? Loyal HDP voters will vote for them anyway if the party asks them to, but that’s not the election spirit you’re really after of course.
Even more so because HDP voters will also be asked to vote for Kılıçdaroğlu in the presidential elections. The HDP, or actually the alliance it is in with a few other parties, named the Labour and Freedom Alliance, hasn’t announced yet whether they will run with their own presidential candidate. Nobody considers it very likely that they will. If they support Kılıçdaroğlu’s candidacy in the first round, there is a good chance that Erdoğan will be beaten. If the HDP does participate with its own candidate, neither Kılıçdaroğlu nor Erdoğan will win the first round, and the second round will be between Kılıçdaroğlu and Erdoğan.
There are many reasons to beat Erdoğan with one firm slap in the first round. The most important is that Erdoğan can just not be trusted and should be voted away as efficiently as possible. The elections are not fair to begin with, with many HDP politicians in jail and persecuted, with almost all media under Erdoğan’s control and the whole voting process carried out by institutions that are loyal to him. A second round increases the risk of him resorting to more violence either inside or outside Turkish borders to create more chaos and scare people into voting for the devil they know.
But still, there is a case for a HDP candidate as well. Maybe it’s a bit too… romantic, or too naive if you like; too much a dream scenario. But can we dream in times when we see that change is on the horizon, that Erdoğan’s days are about to end, and that we make his end as glorious as possible?
If HDP has its own candidate, it can show just how much support it has, bringing the whole opposition against Erdoğan into a crazy victorious mood for the second round, beating Erdoğan with even greater numbers. I may be dreaming, but remember the Istanbul elections in 2019, and how Erdoğan didn’t accept the AKP’s loss in the first round, forced a second round and Imamoğlu, the current mayor, won with even bigger numbers
But a HDP presidential candidate would also enable its supporters to vote for a candidate they wholeheartedly support. To vote as a Kurd for a Kurd, instead of being forced by the state to vote for a Turkish party and a Kemalist presidential candidate because the whole system is so corrupted that you only truly count as citizens when you are assimilated into Turkishness as much as possible. It’s humiliating to force people into a position to go voting but without getting represented. A sour contradiction: you vote to get disenfranchised. A Kurdish presidential candidate would change that.
As icing on the cake, the support a HDP presidential candidate would get would show Kılıçdaroğlu once again how much he needs the Kurds to win. It would be hard for him to not recognize that after he wins. Not just by saying “Thank you”, but of course most importantly by taking action to meet Kurdish demands for democracy, freedom and peace.
I don’t think HDP and the Labour and Freedom Alliance will take the risk. But I liked my few paragraphes of dreaming.
Fréderike Geerdink is an independent journalist. Follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her acclaimed weekly newsletter Expert Kurdistan.