As elections approach in Turkey, Özer Sencar, head of one of the country’s main polling companies Metropoll, has said that no candidate can win without support from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
As support for the HDP has grown through the years, they find themselves in a position in which they have a chance of influencing the outcome of the presidential election.
“Any candidate not supported by the HDP has no chance of winning, either in the first or the second round,” Sencar said. “No-one who says they can can win without HDP should imagine otherwise.”
The pollster was referring to the presidential election, which is due to be held next year alongside the parliamentary elections. Turkey’s presidential election system first allows several candidates to compete against one another in a first round, then moves onto a head-to-head second round if no candidate wins an absolute majority in the initial vote.
While there are commentators who think that the infighting in the opposition alliance could backfire and only benefit President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Sencar’s comments reflect an uncomfortable truth for Turkish nationalists in both the incumbent and opposition blocs: the HDP’s growing popularity has made Kurdish voters a crucial demographic.
The HDP was able to the influence Istanbul’s mayoral election in 2019, supporting the main opposition candidate against that of President Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), and resulting in a victory for the Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP) candidate.
Until this year, the electoral threshold in Turkey’s national elections was 10 percent. This threshold was lowered to 7 percent in April as the extreme right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the second party in the ruling coalition, looked set to fall below the minimum needed to be counted in national elections.
A system of electoral alliances was introduced by which parties could bypass the electoral threshold. The main opposition alliance for the upcoming elections consists of six parties, the largest being the CHP. In the past, the larger opposition parties, wary of losing the nationalist vote, have refrained from making formal alliances with the HDP.
However, as support for the HDP grows, the more moderate opposition parties, including the CHP, have expressed interest in coming to an arrangement with the HDP, with a CHP MP for Istanbul going so far as to say that the pro-Kurdish party could be offered a ministerial post.
The remark prompted angry reactions from the second biggest party in the alliance, the Good Party, a spin-off of the MHP, highlighting the opposition bloc’s difficult balancing act between competing versions of Turkish nationalism.
Last week, Good Party leader Meral Akşener commented on the speculation around collaboration with the HDP by flatly refusing to join forces with the pro-Kurdish party.