Serkan Demirtaş - Hürriyet Daily News / Ankara, June 1 () - The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) will continue its efforts to turn into a political party embracing entire Turkey by abandoning its decades-old ethnic politics, its co-leader has said, vowing no return even after the June 7 election.
“If we give up of this rhetoric after the elections, it’s the HDP who will be the main loser. We will not fall behind the bar we raised. We’ll move forward and not go in reverse. Everybody is curious about what we’ll say on June 8. I declare from here that we’ll say whatever we have been saying up until today” Selahattin Demirtaş, co-chair of the HDP, told the Hürriyet Daily News and daily Hürriyet on May 31, following a question as to whether the party would return to its Kurdish-focused politics after the elections although the HDP has registered a huge success in reaching out to different segments and political views in society in what its leaders call “the process to become the party of Turkey.”
In an instance of self-criticism, Demirtaş admitted that parties focused on the Kurdish question had failed to come to this point in the past mainly because of their shortcomings, but said: “But now we have shown an important improvement that began with the presidential elections. We are determined to take it further.”
The point the HDP arrived at is also positive for the Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin as well, he said, denying claims that they had abandoned the struggle for Kurdish rights. “On the contrary, we have created a basis for Kurds and Turks to communalize the Kurdish issue and to resolve it through democratic means” he said.
Normalization for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue
The key word for the HDP official is the “normalization” of Turkey, and his party’s efforts are very crucial to this end. “Turkey has to be normalized on all issues, including the Kurdish problem. Public opinion in Turkey now recognizes the existence of the Kurdish question. In the past it was not an easy thing that could be sorted out overnight given the fact of the [existence of the] PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party], weapons and clashes. But we should normalize this as well. We should convince everybody for a solution without weapons.
But this will be done by the HDP and not by the AKP [ruling Justice and Development Party]” he said.
A fact that more people are attending the HDP’s public rallies with Turkish flags is a very recent development and indication of the normalization process, Demirtaş said. “To be open, we never said to anybody not to come to our rallies with Turkish flags. Everybody is coming to other rallies with the flags of their groups, associations. And since last week we observe those who are attending our rallies with Turkish flags. This is an indication of normalization” he said.
What if the HDP gets 9.9 percent?
According to public opinion surveys, the HDP has no threshold problem as it is likely to pass the 10 percent national barrier, Demirtaş said, even while remaining cautious. Those who believe that the HDP should enter Parliament is 53 percent, while 23 percent of society would be open to voting for the HDP, Demirtaş said, underlining that the majority that would vote for the HDP for the first time were from those who have fled the AKP.
One of the fundamental questions posed to Demirtaş is how his party will react if the HDP fails to enter parliament in the event that it receives 9.9 or 9.8 percent of the votes. “The question should not be ‘What will you do?’ The right question is ‘What we’ll do.’ For instance, those who live in İzmir should ask this question. Because if we fail to pass the threshold, 60 percent of this society will suffer from this” he said.
He downplayed the possibility of social unrest, especially in southeastern Anatolia, as they will be able to control their voters, but Demirtaş expressed concern that mass reaction could come from those who are not traditional HDP voters. “They may feel more in panic than our grassroots” he said, adding that more people should subsequently vote for the HDP to secure its place in the parliament.
“The only institution that can stop or slow down [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan is the polls. Supreme justice and all other institutions are scared of controlling Erdoğan and the government. Therefore, what we know is that the polls will stand as the last mechanism to stop him. And he is also very aware of this. ‘If I can elude this, I am comfortable until 2019,’ he believes.”
Demirtaş repeated that his party would look to be a strong opposition party in the next parliament in a bid to be better ready for becoming the government in the next parliamentary elections, dismissing concerns that it would form a coalition government with the AKP.
“Our principles and values do not match with either the AKP or the MHP [Nationalist Movement Party]” he said, expressing his contentment that the sum of the CHP and HDP’s votes would likely increase to 40 percent, a historic success.
Erdoğan’s exploitation of religion
One of the reasons why people are abandoning the AKP is Erdoğan’s use of religion as a political tool. “His exploitation of the Quran, the issue of the Diyanet [Directorate of Religious Affairs] has intimidated some parts of his conservative grassroots because they are using the religion in a wrong and ugly way. This lead to us to better explain ourselves on religious matters” he said.
Homosexuals could pass 10 percent threshold if they form a party
Using similar rhetoric, Erdoğan slammed the HDP for nominating a member of the LGBTI community, Barış Sulu, to run for parliament, Demirtaş said, adding that he was doing this simply to insult people over their sexual orientations. “He speaks this way because he wants to humiliate them. Homosexuals would pass the 10 percent threshold even more comfortably than us if they would form a political party. His humiliation of people for their sexual orientation was very ugly” he said.
Demirtaş harshly slammed Erdoğan over his messages on the 562nd anniversary of the Conquest of Istanbul and accused the president of trying to wash the brains of the youth by claiming that he will establish an Islamic Empire and will become the caliph. “He believes that he is rebuilding the Ottoman Empire and he will be the caliph. Therefore, the June 7 polls are the beginning of this great march. Those who are trying to support this march are against the Islamic Empire” he said. “Erdoğan’s rhetoric is not astonishing, but what’s interesting is that so many people believe this.”
Measures taken for polls safety
Another important topic is election security, as more people are expressing concerns over potential election fraud on June 7. Demirtaş explained that they will follow the election process with thousands of people and through a software program uploaded on the smart devices of HDP teams which will enable them to count every single vote cast in the elections. “This is a program that will automatically compare our results with those of the YSK [Supreme Election Board]. The program will immediately issue a warning in the event that results do not correspond” he said.