Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Overlooked Closure Case

Much overlooked by the AKP closure case, DTP is also facing closure and the ban of 221 party members, eight of which are deputies. However, in contrast to AKP, DTP's approach to closure has been to stall proceedings. The Constitutional Court yesterday granted the party's request to postpone its oral argument to the court to Sept. 16. The DTP filed its defense earlier this month and Chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalçınkaya has already made his oral argument. In its defense, DTP is citing the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms' protection for free assembly and thought. The defense is interesting in that the party is not arguing that it is not connected to the PKK, but rather suggesting that there is nothing criminal in voicing support for the PKK. At the same time, DTP is claiming to reject violence and argue that negotiation with the PKK is the only means by which to reach a solution to the Kurdish problem. The argument is not at all likely to win favors and reflects the sentiments of hardliners who have recently come to control the party. A succinct summary of the party's fragmented leadership following its election last July appeared in the June 1 edition of Today's Zaman.
The decision-making process in the DTP works from bottom to top so, while the election of candidates came to the agenda, those with PKK sympathies had a determining effect. The DTP was hoping to have at least 30 deputies, but it emerged from elections with only 20, which is just enough to establish a parliamentary group. Although the DTP officials found excuses for the party's election results and accused the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) of using governmental means, such as distributing coal or giving parents money for their children's' school fees, the moderate wing behind closed doors accused the radical wing of making some systematic mistakes. The radicals suggested that the decrease in votes took place because of the inadequate policies of the moderates.

Before the general elections Türk was the chairman of the party, but he resigned from the post in order to run as an independent candidate. After his resignation the party council elected Nurettin Demirtaş as the acting leader and left the search for a chairman until after the elections. Meanwhile when the DTP formed its parliamentary group, Türk became the chairman of the group. But the radicals were against the chairmanship of Türk, especially after the hand-shaking incident with Bahçeli.

Five months after the general elections the two groups finally agreed to elect a chairman from outside of Parliament. They reached a consensus on Diyarbakır Yenişehir Municipality Mayor Fırat Anlı. But Anlı at the last moment withdrew his candidacy, and in November 2007 Demirtaş was elected chairman, rather than mere acting chairman. However, soon after his election a court case was opened against him on the grounds that he had falsified documents in order to get out of military service; he was arrested and served a short term in prison, but was subsequently released and enlisted in the military. After these developments, the discussions on who would lead the DTP started up again, and now the decision has been left until the DTP's extraordinary congress in July.

But meanwhile, Türk, during a visit to northern Iraq, said in an interview the armed struggle of the PKK is harming the Kurds. This statement angered the radical segment of the party, and while he was still in northern Iraq the party council elected Emine Ayna as the acting leader of the party.

According to parliamentary bylaws the chairperson of a party must also be the chairperson of the party's parliamentary group. The law experts at the DTP warned the party that Ayna, even though she is merely the acting chairperson of the party, has to be the chairperson of the parliamentary group. Türk, in view of the situation, resigned from the acting chairmanship of the parliamentary group.

After this development Türk said his resignation had nothing to do with the internal struggle of the party. "We will continue our work with solidarity. We are a party with a mission and are working for solutions. Of course in politics there will always be debates and critics, but we will always be united," he said, adding that he had not decided whether to run as a candidate for the chairmanship of the party at the July 20 congress.
The party is hopeful to solidify its leadership at another party congress to be held July 20. The factional politics of DTP and the many debates within the party as how it should act in relation to the PKK, most of which never make it into the Turkish press, suggest just how complicated is the issue of PKK affiliation and reflect deep divides over and misgivings about the PKK's continued dominance of Kurdish politics. For more on the issue of negotiation with the PKK and the thorny business of Kurdish politics, see Feb. 4 post and May 16 post.

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