November 28, 2022

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Seagulls fly over the Galata Bridge in Istanbul, Türkiye, Nov. 8, 2022. (AP Photo)

Will the HDP visit open a new political space?

A meeting between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) over a proposed constitutional amendment has sparked all eyes on the MHP. Finally, MPH leader Devlet Bahceli said that a party’s visit with a parliamentary grouping is “absolutely normal and correct” to prove that there are strong consultation mechanisms in the People’s Alliance on major policy issues. This statement not only destroyed expectations of a crisis, but also opened some space regarding HDP.

Before taking a look at the nature of this room, it is important to highlight the main reason why the People’s Alliance does not face a crisis. This is because President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Bahceli can cooperate in many areas, including foreign policy, economic policy and domestic policy. They trust each other and have a common approach to the country’s core issues. In other words, they engage in healthy diplomacy between leader and leader.

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Unlike party leaders who sit around a “six-person table”, the AKP and the MHP leader are able to do different things without causing each other problems – a huge advantage ahead of next year’s elections. Indeed, the continued consistency of their rhetoric and policies toward the Kurdish electorate would be important enough to influence the opposition bloc’s development of a common policy.

opposition reaction

The opposition responded to the AKP’s visit by saying that the ruling party “equated the HDP” with the PKK terrorist organization and asked what had changed. Ironically, these comments made the HDP, which hopes to shake off marginalization and play an influential role in Turkish politics after 2023, very uncomfortable.

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Not surprisingly, some form of engagement with the HDP has become a topic in everyday party politics. After all, there is an urgent need to discuss the role of the party, like its predecessors, in Turkish political life. Blending leftist politics and ethnic nationalism, the HDP remains a deeply problematic movement according to many electoral blocs due to its inability to distance itself from the PKK. There is already a suspension case against the HDP before the Constitutional Court. Certainly, the “democratic pressure” on that party must continue unless and until it undoubtedly abandons terrorism.

My view is that a visit by a group of AKP officials to the HDP does not automatically mean that “democratic pressure” will be lifted. No one expects the government to start a new reconciliation process, as this party will be treated as a counterparty.

However, the political debate will still focus on how different parties treat the HDP, what they say about each other’s policies, and the discourse/politics that the HDP will adopt.

What opinions will HDP express during the election campaign? Will you continue to view the Republic as a “destructive project”? Will the movement talk about the mother tongue and local self-government? Or can the HDP revise its entire rhetoric?

It is clear that the outcome of the closing issue and the possibility of a new military intervention in northern Syria will shape that agenda.

Identity Policies

Ahead of next year’s elections, identity-related issues such as the government’s Alawite initiative and proposed constitutional protections for the religious veil have emerged in political debates.

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Similarly, different political parties can bring new discourse and new moves regarding the Kurdish question. The discourse of integration and unity, appealing to Kurdish voters, and giving more space to Kurdish politicians on candidate lists, immediately comes to mind.

The question, however, is whether Turkey’s political parties will choose to start a conversation, which could marginalize the HDP, despite the size of the nationalist base. Will they publicly engage with that movement during the pre-election negotiations? If they were to take such steps, how would the HDP (which apparently wants to wait until the next election to try to regain momentum) respond?

All of these questions have multiple dimensions and highlight the need to anticipate a political debate in Turkey that could lead to surprising developments.