by Leo Kendrick
In an event in Ankara yesterday (27 September), the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) released their new Tutum Belgesi, a long-awaited document detailing the party’s platform heading into Turkey’s upcoming election season, expected to take place in 2022 or 2023.
The platform was announced by HDP co-chairs Mithat Sancar and Pervin Buldan, who made the announcement under a Turkish-Kurdish banner reading “A Call to Justice, A Call to Democracy, A Call to Peace,” the main slogan of the event. The party platform, consisting of 11 main topics, placed emphasis on the themes of democracy and finding a solution to the Kurdish question.
But the party platform announcement went beyond just addressing the Kurdish issue, taking particular aim at Turkey’s presidential system and calling openly for a return to the previous parliamentary system. Turkey switched to the current presidential system following a controversial and closely contested nation-wide referendum in 2017. Other opposition figures, including the Good Party chairwoman Meral Akşener, have recently made similar calls for a return to the old system. Turkey’s current presidential system has been criticized by opposition leaders as placing too much power in the hands of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who himself campaigned for the referendum.
Monday’s event comes on the heels of renewed debate over the Kurdish question in Turkey in the past week, as well as an opposition coalition seemingly eager to court the country’s Kurdish electorate, expected to be a key piece of a potential opposition victory in 2023. In comments released last week, main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, chairman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), made headlines by saying he considered the HDP to be a key interlocutor for solving the long-running Kurdish question in Turkey, prompting discussion amongst politicians and the public regarding resolution of the issue. Kılıçdaroğlu’s conciliatory overtures towards the HDP were interpreted by many as an attempt to broaden the opposition’s political tent heading into 2023. The Nation Alliance (Millet İttifakı), consisting primarily of the CHP and Good Parties, does not include the HDP. The Nation Alliance is expected to run a joint presidential candidate to challenge Erdoğan in 2023.
Consequently, although the HDP remains separate from the Nation Alliance coalition, monday’s event showcased some of the priorities shared across Turkey’s opposition, chiefly resolution of the Kurdish question and a return to the former parliamentary system. Echoing Kılıçdaroğlu’s comments, the HDP party platform declared “Turkey’s Grand National Assembly is the place to solve the Kurdish problem,” underlining their belief that resolution to the long-running issue will be achieved through legislative means.
The “Kurdish problem”, as it is known in Turkish, refers to Turkey’s struggle to integrate it’s sizable Kurdish minority. Turkey’s heavily Kurdish southeastern provinces have been the site of clashes between government forces and armed groups for decades. Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan has been imprisoned for over two decades on terrorism charges, former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, imprisoned since 2016, remains a prominent figure on Turkey’s political scene, and was involved in last week’s renewed discussion of the Kurdish issue. In the wake of Kılıçdaroğlu’s comments last week, President Erdoğan responded saying “Turkey has no Kurdish problem…We have solved it,” a position which drew criticism from opposition members.