Just as the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is not the first political organization of the Kurdish movement, the question of whether the HDP should be banned is not new. A number of parties have been banned from Turkish politics before and the HDP, which was founded in 2012 and is effectively a coalition of leftist movements, is currently the largest political body representing the Kurdish population of Turkey. In the 2018 general elections, the CHP managed to become the third largest party in parliament after the ruling AK Party and the CHP. In the municipal elections of 2019, HDP candidates managed to win races in 65 places. Since then, 48 mayors have been removed from duty and replaced by state appointed proxies.
The issue of banning the HDP from politics was dragged into national prominence recently by MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli. Since then, politicians have argued the issue in the morning, and pundits have discussed it on debate programs on TV at night. I, myself, have been a participant in a few of these TV programs where the issue was discussed. I have to admit, the debate was rather shallow in nature. What was more striking than the intellectual shallowness of the debate was the fact no HDP representatives were present. They never are and this is not surprising. Olay TV, which was allowed a national broadcast for only 26 days, was shut down last week. Incidentally, they were the only TV channel that live broadcasted the weekly parliamentary group meeting of the HDP. No longer.
Personally, I am against banning political parties. Neither in politics nor in personal life have I seen the benefits of dealing with the results rather than the root of the problem. The results are never sustainable.
The issue is being discussed from two perspectives. First the legal and second the political. I do not have the expertise to discuss the issue from the legal perspective. However, Turkey’s decision to disregard the decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) regarding the release of Selahattin Demirtaş renders the issue political. I will discuss the politics.
Those who are in favor of banning the HDP have put forward two main arguments. First, they claim, this is the will of the majority of the population. At TurkiyeRaporu.com we wondered if this was indeed the case and in a December 2020 nation-wide poll, we asked the respondents whether they thought the HDP should be banned. The results reveal a less clear picture. While 49 percent of the participants answered yes, 41 percent said no and 11 percent preferred not to answer.
The second argument is that, if the HDP were banned, its voters would be distributed between the CHP, DEVA, Future Party and AK party. Not only is this factually incorrect, but it is disrespectful to the democratic preferences of the voters. It is important to keep in mind that the HDP received almost 6 million votes in 2018.
The percentage of those who answered yes to this question among HDP voters is 0. The percentage of those who say they have no idea or no answer is 0. In our research, even the rate of HDP voters who say they would vote for the MHP if elections were held this Sunday not 0 percent. This result is not surprising. Think of a voter in Turkey’s Diyarbakır province. He voted for a BDP candidate in the 2014 local elections. Later, a proxy was appointed by the state in 2016. In the 2019 local elections, he voted for the same HDP candidate, which is the continuation of the BDP, and a proxy was appointed again. Do you think that this is a voter who tends to change his political preference?
The fight against terror is essential in Turkey and it should be. But so should be the fight for a healthy pluralist democracy. Fighting the symptoms rather than treating the illness itself never produces a long-lasting solution.