Flash news in Turkey this week: a photo emerged of the leaders of six opposition parties, who form an alliance to draw a ‘joint road map’ for Turkey’s future. Immediately the discussions started about the absence of the HDP. Shouldn’t they be part of such an opposition alliance? Was the HDP invited at all, and if so, did they refuse?
What people forget, is that the HDP is itself a coalition.
One of the main goals of the alliance, called the Nation Alliance, is to push Erdoğan from power and restore the parliamentary system. That system must be strengthened, they say, to make sure the checks and balances, which have been seriously undermined even further since the presidential system was introduced in 2018, will work. Their whole package will be announced to the public on 28 February.
The Nation Alliance is one of the two main alliances in Turkey. The other one is the People’s Alliance of the governing AKP and MHP. The Nation Alliance was forged in 2018 by the biggest opposition party CHP, IYI Party (a breakaway party from the MHP), the small Democrat Party and the religious-conservative Felicity Party (Saadet Partisi), and is now joined by the two parties of formerly high ranking AKP politicians, Ali Babacan and Ahmet Davutoğlu, who founded respectively the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) and the Future Party (GP).
That’s a whole bunch of parties and of course I admit there are differences between them, but in the core, they are interchangeable: they will all defend Turkey’s nationalism, a nationalism that refuses to acknowledge the political and cultural rights of those citizens who don’t identify as Sunni Turks. I was reading into what the English-language press has written about the only woman of the leaders of the Nation Alliance, Meral Akşener. She told Time in 2018: “We don’t do politics based on race or ethnicity. Our definition of the nation is based on shared memories, share ties, and shared joys.”
Time didn’t put the quote in context but the gist of the quote was that such a take is different from the mainstream of Turkish politics. While it is actually the core of Turkish nationalism: she may call it memories, ties and joys, but what it boils down to is history, religion, culture. Everybody in Turkey is a Sunni Turk, and whoever breaks away from that central truth by claiming a partly different history, or a different religion, language, ethnicity, is breaking the bonds, and is therefore a separatist. This is why the state keeps calling the PKK ‘separatist’: it fights for the rights of those who don’t identify as Turks.
Akşener’s quote could be the quote of the leader of any of the eight parties in the two alliances. Which makes them all equally incapable of leading Turkey towards democracy. The personal political histories of these figures confirm that. Akşener was Interior Minister for almost a year in the 1990s and under her rule too, many Kurds were extra-judicially murdered or forcefully ‘disappeared’ – she denies this until this very day. Saadet Partisi leader Karamollaoğlu was mayor of Sivas in 1993 when the Madımak massacre happened, in which 33 Alevi intellectuals were burned alive when the hotel where they had a meeting was set on fire by an angry religious mob and the authorities didn’t do a thing to stop it. Davutoğlu was Prime Minister when in 2015 the city wars broke out between the army and PKK-affiliated youth and he never took responsibility for the disproportionate reaction of the state and the total destruction of whole neighbourhoods. Kılıçdaroğlu voted in favour of robbing HDP MPs from their parliamentary immunity, and his party CHP also condones the current procedure to rob yet another HDP lawmaker off her immunity. How are these people going to make Turkey more democratic?
The question is even what good it will do Turkey to return to the parliamentary system when these persons are in charge. The presidential system and Erdoğan as the symbol of it have intensified Turkey’s problems, but not caused them. What matters is not presidential or parliamentary, what matters is breaking away from the hard-core nationalism, aka fascism, that has been at the core of the republic since day one.
An alliance is needed for that indeed. An alliance of people, parties and groups that understand how destructive that core is, and surprise surprise, it already exists: HDP. It’s not “pro-Kurdish”, as it is often referred to in the foreign press, but pro-democracy, looking at Turkey through the lens of its most marginalised groups. Solving the Kurdish issue is key, because the Kurdish issue is the clearest manifestation of what’s wrong with the system. If the Kurdish issue is truly solved, the system will have been changed and everybody’s rights will be respected.
The third alliance is the HDP. Their path, which the party itself calls the ‘third path’, leads not only to the end of Erdoğan’s rule, but to more freedom for everybody. Whoever wants to, can walk along.
Fréderike Geerdink is an independent journalist. Follow her on Twitter, or subscribe to her acclaimed weekly newsletter Expert Kurdistan.