The AKP won nearly half of the vote in the region in the 2007 parliamentary elections, but has suffered a serious loss of support since. 2009 local elections saw many municipalities fall to the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which has wisely used the victories to consolidate support by building social welfare programs and instituting governance structures apart from Ankara. Following a large bout of violence last summer, the PKK declared a ceasefire ahead of the Sept. 12 referendum, which the BDP called on Kurds to boycott. Voter turnout was consequently quite low in much of the mostly Kurdish southeast.
The ceasefire was extended in November, ahead of winter when the PKK seeks refuge in the mountains of northern Iraq and fighting generally stays at a minimum.
Selahattin Demirtas, BDP's co-chair, issued a statement after the PKK announcement in which the hardline politician (there are less militant figures in the BDP, such as Ahmet Tuk and Aysel Tugluk) declared that the Turkish government was unwise not to take advantage of the ceasefire and the peace process. Demirtas threatened further unrest, sounding a note similar to that of fellow BDP hardline and former co-chair Emine Ayna before the violence really got going last summer.
Meanwhile, Sezgin Tanrikulu, a long-time Kurdish rights advocate and now deputy leader of the opposition CHP, which is now seemingly attempting to make headway on the Kurdish issue by bridging the divide between the AKP and the BDP, denounced the violence and called on the government to take aggressive steps to solve the issue.
Sezgin Tanrıkulu, deputy leader of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, spoke to the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Monday and said they are in favor of solving all problems with an understanding of “total freedom, peace and negotiation,” not with guns. “All political parties should approach the problem apart from daily concerns, with having a big responsibility and common rapprochement. In this context in order to tackle the threshold in the elections that prevents just representation, we proposed a ‘commission of realities’ to be built, for the rebuilding of the justice,” Tanrıkulu said.Tanrikulu has proposed a truth commission eventually be established to help in conflict resolution efforts. When I interviewed him last May ahead of the violence and before his BDP appointment, Tanrikulu spoke of the need to bridge a common ground between Kurdish civil society and the government and fast given the potential for violence brought about by the failed expectations the Kurdish opening engendered.
Tanrıkulu said they view it as “unfortunate” that the governing party has resisted their proposals, which they believe would have served democracy. Tanrıkulu claimed the governing party was acting with “short-term fears and calculations” in this context.
“We believe in order to let the people’s will be reflected in the ballot boxes, the election period should not be dragged into an environment of violence and conflict. Because of that, we once again express our call for an end to the violence,” Tanrıkulu said.
Meanwhile the BDP is taking an ever harder line. Demirtas announced that the party may elect candidates currently on trial for membership in the KCK, the so-called urban wing of the PKK. Those currently under arrest or detention include 12 elected mayors from the BDP. From Hurriyet Daily News:
Demirtaş also cautiously hinted that the BDP might consider nominating some figures from the Kandil Mountains in northern Iraq, where the outlawed PKK has camps.In the interview with Hurriyet Daily News, Demirtas also speaks of the possibility of forming a coalition with the AKP, as well as addresses the CHP's attempts to address the issue, which are a new development for the party. In the 2000s, CHP adopted a hard, nationalist posture on the Kurdish issue.
“We are not enforcing any limitations. And we are not saying that they must be from there. If their legal circumstance permits it, we will consider their applications,” he said. Demirtaş added that the party has “not set aside a quota for those from Makhmour, Habur or prison,” referring to the Makhmour refugee camp in northern Iraq and the controversial group of returnees who entered Turkey through the Habur border gate in October 2009.
The BDP currently holds 20 seats in Parliament, a figure Demirtaş said the party aims to double in the June general elections.
“Our goal is to double the number of our group and reach 40 deputies in Parliament. This is a realistic goal for us,” he said. “We can have four deputies from Istanbul. We will also have deputies from Adana, Mersin and İzmir for certain. We are also assertive in Bursa, Manisa, Aydın and Kocaeli.”