What got into the High Election Board?
Now, the Kurdish candidates who were banned from running in the elections at the beginning of the week have been ‘rehabilitated’: they are allowed to run, after the High Election Board discussed the matter again. Did they change their minds because of the intense protests in Istanbul and in the south east of the country? Was there an error in the paperwork, that was corrected in the subsequent days (don’t be too quick to say that’s naive, and read something on that here)? Did they interpret the law differently this time? Whatever exactly happened, the conclusion must be: the Election Board has acted totally irresponsibly.
Let’s say, just for the heck of it, that it was paperwork that was the problem, as is suggested by some. Was this the way then to make clear to the candidates that something was wrong with it? Seems to me that it could have been communicated before Monday, especially when it’s a serious subject like this. You don’t let it go this far just over a few forms, do you?
Was the law interpreted differently this time? That sounds just as ridiculous. The candidates’ last day to register for the elections was April 11, the decision against the candidates came Monday, one week later. And now in a few hours they come to a totally different decision? The point is, of course, that the laws that apply to these sorts of situations are designed for these sorts of candidates: Kurds.
The law that you can’t run for parliament if you have been convicted of crimes related to terrorism, is solely there to block Kurdish politicians from entering parliament. The crimes they are convicted of are not crimes. They have spoken out against the lack of political and cultural rights of Kurds, they dared to speak Kurdish in parliament, they referred to PKK leader Öcalan as sayin, (‘respected’). In Turkey, these things lead to convictions for ‘making propaganda for a terrorist organisation’, or ‘having links to a terrorist organisation’. But in fact, what they did can’t be considered crimes, let alone terrorism.
By the way, the very fact that Kurds have to run for parliament as independent candidates is based on a discriminatory law. That’s the ten percent election threshold, introduced to keep Kurds out of parliament.
Was it the heavy protests against the banning of the candidates that made the Election Board change its mind? If that’s the case, it means that the Board didn’t see this strong reaction coming,which would mean they are totally out of touch with reality. Governing party AKP started a so-called ‘Kurdish opening’ years ago to solve the Kurdish issue by democratic means, but nothing has come of it. The PKK has been rather silent and even respected a cease fire for months, but the government has made no genuine progress. No Kurdish education. No lowering of the ten percent threshold. No end to the legal prosecution of many BDP mayors. No conclusion or cease-fire in military actions against the PKK. Nothing. The disappointment over that is huge, the anger latent. Could it be true the Election Board had no idea of that latent anger that erupted after their decision?
From whatever angle you look at it, the Board has acted irresponsibly. Now they have corrected their mistake, but is the matter closed? Kurdish politicians have reacted mildly. They said they hoped the latest decision would contribute to more democracy. They said that a mistake has been corrected. They said the positive decision should calm tension. But I wonder if it will calm things down. Is it not too late for that?
The genie is, so to speak, out off the bottle, and I wonder if it is possible to push it back in. Kurds are angry, very angry. They live in this country too, and again and again they are blocked from fully participating, either socially, culturally or politically. These genuine complaints should finally be heard.
Also of course, all of this took place within the context of the Kurdish Civil Disobedience Campaign that as the excellent New York Times article of today points out has renewed and reinvigorated the Kurdish Civil Rights Campain!
The link to the NYT article referred to above http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/22/world/europe/22kurds.html