Opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) chair Ali Babacan has suggested that far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli visit Turkey's southeast and talk with loals to understand if the Kurdish issue has been “resolved” or not, as has been claimed by the government.
“Mr. Bahçeli needs to especially walk on the streets of [Hakkari's] Şemdinli, [Şırnak's] Cizre. He needs to sit down at coffeehouses [kahvehane] and chat with the youth. He needs to visit the market, bazaar in the Diyarbakır center. Otherwise, there is no point in them saying 'This problem does not exist' from where they sit in Ankara,” Babacan said on Oct. 4 during a party district congress.
Babacan's comments came as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his staunch supporter Bahçeli have recently denied the existence of the Kurdish issue once again.
“There is no such thing as a ‘Kurdish problem’ in Turkey,” Bahçeli said on Sept. 21, as he slammed main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Kemal Kılıçdaorğlu for demanding a solution to the issue, whereas Erdoğan on Sept. 30 claimed that his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had “solved the issue with all of its dimensions from rights and freedoms to development.”
Babacan rebutted both Erdoğan’s and Bahçeli's statements, reiterating that a Kurdish issue does exist.
“There is a Kurdish problem in our country. If the government is still denying this problem, it will not take any step to solve it. Mr. President needs to ask the question of 'Is there a Kurdish problem in this country or not?' to our Kurdish citizens. He needs to sit down with them and hear out their problems,” Babacan said.
At the beginning of its tenure, the AKP loosened many restrictions on Kurdish political, linguistic and cultural rights as part of the so-called "Kurdish Opening", but since the collapse of peace talks with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in 2015, repression of the community has again been on the rise.
Last month, Kılıçdaroğlu criticized Erdğan and his ruling AKP's attempts at solving the Kurdish issue. The CHP leader said the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) should be the only “legitimate” interlocutor for the solution and not the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, as Erdoğan’s government had previously done.
Babacan said that his party has always advocated for all issues to be resolved “at a diplomatic political area.”
“The solution of problems in our country goes through democracy. We should not look for solutions in other places...We are in the field every month, visiting the country's every corner. We have determined this problem and always express that its solution needs to take place at a democratic political floor,” Babacan said, in an explicit reference to the HDP.
Babacan was also asked if HDP representatives will join the ongoing meetings held between officials of six opposition parties with regards to their demand for a return to the parliamentary system.
“There is currently a common will with regard to the meeting of six political parties. If this common will takes another shape in the future, that would, of course, be another issue to be discussed,” Babacan said, emphasizing that the DEVA continues to talk with the HDP for discussions on the need for a return to the parliamentary system.
“Our consultations with the HDP continue on a bilateral level. As with every political party that says 'We want a parliamentary system,' our consultations do exist with that party [the HDP] and continue,” Babacan said.
Babacan was also asked if the DEVA will join the Nation Alliance, which consists of the CHP, Good (İYİ) Party, Felicity Party (Saadet), Democrat Party (DP).
Babacan said that the DEVA's current meetings with the other opposition parties do not mean that they had formed an “alliance.”
“There is yet no decision that we have given. If we ripen this decision, we would share it with the public,” he said.
Representatives of the Nation Alliance as well as the DEVA and former prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's Future Party will hold their third meeting on Oct. 5 in parliament. The party executives will address the details of the shift from the current executive presidential system into the parliamentary system, should the opposition bloc win the upcoming elections.
The leaders of the parties have not yet attended these meetings, but are working to issue a joint declaration that will set the alliance's common principles for the next elections.
Although the DEVA and the Future Party are not part of the Nation Alliance, they frequently express their support for it.