With the conviction of Istanbul mayor Imamoğlu on absurd charges and for political reasons, the alliance of which his party, the CHP, is a part of, has (seemingly) become more united. They strive to bring back the parliamentary system, which Erdoğan replaced by a presidential one, but for the rest, they don’t have enough in common to launch a shared campaign. Shall we, on the threshold of the year in which the Turkish republic will celebrate the centenary of its founding, point out the elephant in the room? They unite on the Kurdish issue. A persistent problem in Turkey’s history.
On a superficial level, the opposition united in the Nation Alliance, with the CHP and IYI Party as the most important parties, seem not so united when it comes to the Kurdish issue. There is a segment in the CHP that is not hostile to the HDP and is open to talks with them, but the party has a staunch Kemalist wing as well, while the IYI Party is lead by a Grey She-wolf who would never want to sit at the table with what she considers ‘terrorists’. But they all agree that now is not the time to focus on the Kurdish issue and they refuse to say anything meaningful about it to not harm their alliance. First things first, they apparently think: Erdoğan out, presidential system out, parliamentary system in. The Kurdish issue is not their priority.
One of the possible presidential candidates of this alliance, long-time CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, phrased it interestingly this week -: they are not seeking to replace one king by another king, and that Turkey needs rules, not kings. Sounds great, but that sounds like if only once Erdoğan is out, once ‘the king’ is down, Turkey will be on the way to real democracy. But what if it’s not Erdoğan who is the king, but the fascist state? That this king is firmly on its throne regardless of the question of whether there is a presidential or parliamentary system? The king doesn’t care. The king rules and laughs because its servants bicker over system details.
The dynamic is reminiscent of the Turkish leftist movement in the 1970s. They discussed the ‘eastern question’ (and phrased it like that to avoid the K-word), and the general view was that first, Turkey had to be freed from US imperialism and only then, the eastern issue could be discussed. They believed that Turkey was not colonizing ‘the east’ because Turkey was colonized itself, and that colonized nations can’t be colonizers themselves. While a group of Kurds, led by Abdullah Öcalan, disagreed: Turkey can’t be free if Kurdistan isn’t free. And Kurdistan can only be free if the foundations of the state are broken down. If the king leaves.
It was, after all, this one same king that ruled over every form of government the Republic has seen since 1923. Atatürk’s one party system, the governments and post-coup governments after that, the chaotic coalition governments of the 1990s, the now two decades under Erdogan’s rule. How happy the one who can call himself a Turk – and, by extension, how unhappy and in grave danger the one who refuses to call himself a Turk and dares to identify differently. It was under this king that the Dersim massacres in the 1930s happened, it was under this king that the Maraş massacre happened in 1978, the Roboski massacre in 2011, under this king that coups were staged and opponents were hanged, that Turkish prisons turned into torture centres that were notorious around the world.
The presidential system is not the problem. Or do you think that Ferhat Encü, who lost many of his family members in the Roboski massacre and is now the co-chair of HDP Istanbul, would not have been slapped in the face by a plain-cloths cop like he was this weekend under a parliamentary system? Do you think a brave woman like Şebnem Korur Financı would not have been arrested under a parliamentary system for demanding an investigation into allegations that the state uses chemical weapons against the PKK? Do you think under a parliamentary system, the Turkish army wouldn’t be threatening to invade Syria again?
Whoever Erdogan’s opponent is going to be, they will surely be visiting Diyarbakır during the election campaign. They’ll try to make the people believe that removing Erdoğan from power will lead to democracy. The locals won’t be fooled so easily. They know the king well and how it will resist being forced out. They know that as long as solving the Kurdish issue is not the highest priority, the king will stay in place and democracy is far away.