The winner of the Turkish 2023 parliamentary and presidential elections was Erdoğan’s dictatorship. Nevertheless, the resistance against dictatorship too has attained the highest degree of integration since the 2017 constitutional referendum days. For the first time, the democratic and anti-dictatorial opposition movements of Turkey and Kurdistan have moved on single front and thus have arrived a new political ground for future struggles.
The overall picture of the 2023 elections in Turkey is almost identical with that of the 2017 referendum’s. The polarisation level is the same; in 2017, 51.41 percent of the votes was “Yes” against 48.59 percent of the “No” camp vis-à-vis 52.18 percent for Erdoğan against 47.82 for Kılıçdaroğlu in the second round of presidential elections on 28 May. The election map is the same; western and southern coastal regions, Kurdistan, Thrace, and major metropolises are in the realm of resistance, while the whole Central Anatolia region except for Ankara and Eskişehir, the Black Sea coast, and the transitional provinces – mainly the areas severely hit by the 6 February earthquakes- from Anatolia to Kurdistan, remain in the realm of dictatorship.
“Seven-league boots” of power
From a certain perspective, this picture could be read as if there has been no progress in terms of democracy and freedom since 2017. Yet this would be a misleading and superficial reading and would only yield confusion and defeatism. A correct reading would instead, tell us that the workers, women, Kurds, Alevis, LGBTQ+, and earth rights movements, who have remained under armed oppression by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government of Justice and Development Party (AKP) have improved their capacities in organising, togetherness, solidarization and unification and have also achieved in winning the greater municipalities of 11 major cities in the 2019 local elections in between, thus pulling the magic carpet from under the dictatorship and disrupting its socio-political alignment of forces.
Then, the prospects are darker for the regime, not for the opposition and resistance. Erdoğan’s dictatorship has drained the public resources of the next decade into a financial black hole in order to neutralise or attract the undecided voters in the grey zone, has antagonised various segments of society and unintentionally brought them closer to each other, has provided an opportunity for more than 70 percent of the Kurdish population of Diyarbakır to gather around an Alevite presidential candidate from Dersim, It may be in power but with lesser socio-political power. Yet, it is still in power. In Lenin’s metaphorization, he still wears the “seven-league boots” of power and may appear capable of doing whatever he wishes, and when it comes to crush, break and spoi, there is no doubt that he is indeed abled.
However, this alone is not enough for the victory of fascism. Fascism may only overcome when the peoples’ and workers’ revolution is ultimately defeated, and the morals of the working people, with their historical horizon shrunken into dusk, defected to the values of the tyrant and surrendered. Erdoğan’s own words in a public statement in 2017 significantly bespeak the intent in this regard: “Being in power politically is one thing. Social and cultural power, on the other hand, is something else. We have been uninterruptedly in political power for 14 years. But we still have challenges when it comes to our social and cultural power.”
This is the raison d’etre of the one-man regime: it’s there to prepare the human material of the allaturca fascism, to crush and dilute all democratic-modern values and “melt all that is solid into the air” to decay Turkey’s share of humaneness, spirituality, wisdom, virtue and nobility from the universal progress of humanity. And there are at least 30 million people who have been resisting and will continue to resist against this.
Democratic transformation throughout the country
As the experience of May 14-28 elections has displayed, the Turkey of democracy, freedom and internationalism, of Kurds and Kurdistan, of women, workers, and intellectuals are resisting. Primarily, this resistance will redefine the limits of the dictatorship’s hegemony and continue to force it to back-off. Our greatest asset, our major material and spiritual wealth is this human asset. They are the ones to take the power away from Erdoğan and his cohorts, but if the opposition can grow its degree of integration, and attain a level of patience, understanding and tolerance, or a level of “civilisation” required to build up a pluralistic and diversified democratic front.
The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), indeed, is very crucial at this point. Turkey can only reach that level of political development through the upward progression and expansion of the strategic alliance (or the “historical bloc”) between the Kurdish Freedom Movement and Turkey’s Socialist Movement. This alliance, which we prefer to term the “third pole”, assumes its expression today in the Peoples’ Democratic Party/Green Left Party.
The figures are self-evident: the Kurdish Freedom Movement, continuously increased its support, starting with 1,835,486 votes, 5.24 percent of the national vote and six deputies in the parliament in the 2007 “A Thousand Hopes” campaign that enabled it bypass the 10 percent electoral threshold via independent candidates. On June 7, 2015 elections the Peoples’ Democratic Party, reached the highest scores in 16 years rose up to 6,057,506 votes, 13.2 percent of the national vote and 80 deputies on June 7, 2015. Along with this uninterrupted rise, it also succeeded in measuredly developing the subjective conditions of democratic transformation throughout the country.
This continuous rise was halted in the climate of conflict, triggered by the “urban warfare” that erupted between security forces and Kurdish militants in the majority Kurdish provinces -the inevitable outcome of the lifting by Erdogan of the “peace and resolution process” in 2014-15 and the subsequent “crack-down operation” that followed the November 2015 snap elections.
In November 2015, the HDP’s support dropped to 10.76 percent, slightly above the electoral threshold, and the number of votes dropped down to 4,803,774. Albeit a partial increase in the June 24, 2018 elections with 11.7 percent support with 5,145,688 votes and 64 seats, it declined to its lowest in eight years in the recent elections with 8.87 percent support and 4,803,774 votes what yielded 61 seats in the parliament this time.
A fresh strategic approach
Only time will reveal the true significance of this apparent setback, and it remains to be seen if it really carries the weight attributed to it in the current discourse. The HDP administration’s perspective on these results will be crucial in determining whether they view them, in line with a fresh strategic approach that considers the long-term trajectory of the political landscape, as tolerable setbacks that can be overcome in the future.
For instance, was it predicted that the political investment in not fielding a candidate in the presidential election with the possibility of defeating Erdoğan in the first round, would make the rising “new star” -Kılıçdaroğlu- a centre of attraction among Kurdish voters with the contribution of the HDP/Green Left? Was that tendency what had surfaced also in the case of Selahattin Demirtaş, the HDP’s 2018 presidential candidate –then, while the HDP received 11.7 percent of the vote, Demirtaş remained at 8 percent- simulated in anticipation of the 2023 elections?
Or, was the inevitability of some voters’ depoliticization and increased tendency to abstain considered while the public’s agenda in the pre-election period was carelessly occupied with any issue but the elections themselves? In that period, the opposition had converged on voter maximization through mass mobilisation as the only way to counterbalance their complete lack of preparation for electoral security.
While finalising the list of candidates, at a time when the socialist, revolutionary and radical democratic segments of society that constitute the most radical and dynamic part of the HDP’s political support have turned their attention into the dynamics of capitalism’s multiple crises, was it considered that the neglection of highlighting symbolic figures especially in Turkey’s west and in Kurdistan’s major provinces, might have dulled the enthusiasm and participation even of the HDP’s socialist components? Further, were remedies considered to avoid presenting non-HDP elements as “genuine left” vis-à-vis the HDP “components” in the course of alliance building.
Ensuring clarity and transparency from start to finish
As for the idiom in the title*, the Kurdish people have made significant contributions to the HDP/Green Left electoral administration, and it is their rightful prerogative to expect a lot, especially in challenging times. It is only natural for those who have dedicated their minds, lives, resources, power, and affection, to seek reciprocation in the form of love, empowerment, and prosperity. It is only fair that Diyarbakır, where the opposition candidate received proportionally more votes than İzmir, the main opposition stronghold of the Aegean coast, now has the right to demand accountability for the lack of accountability for how these sacrifices have been repaid with rebuke.
However, it is important to remember that the HDP/Green Left are organisations with multiple shareholders. When breaking down the balances, it is crucial to carefully assess the role and influence of each shareholder with utmost precision, like a silversmith, and ensure that the final balance sheet reflects this accurately. Furthermore, this assessment should be carried out within a framework of institutional discipline, ensuring clarity and transparency from start to finish and ultimately serving our refoundation.
This accounting of the HDP must be a revolutionary process.
* Ertuğrul Kürkçü is the current Honorary President of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and Honorary Associate of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). He spent 14 years as a prisoner between 1972-1986 for his political activism in Turkey. He is also member of Progressive International Council.