Don’t expect the HDP to change its vision to keep you on board

It’s a challenge for the HDP, I heard people say, that they attracted so many new voters. How to keep them on board in the longer run? Will they vote for the HDP again when there are new elections, be it in the short term or in 2019, when the next elections are scheduled to be held? What if the people who voted for the HDP only because they hate Erdogan won’t vote for HDP again because the 13% was so comfortably above the threshold that they think the party can do without their vote the next time?

Of course, these are risks. But I don’t think these risks mean a ‘challenge’ for the HDP.

HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtas
HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtas

The HDP is not a traditional party. It has its roots in and is part of a huge mass people’s movement. This movement has a clear goal: a democratic Turkey, run by a fundamentally different system than the one under which the country has been led for the last century. In other words: the goal is peace. Peace not only in the narrow sense of the silencing of weapons, but, as the Kurdish movement calls it, an ‘honourable peace’. A peace in which everybody in Turkey can live their identity freely.The HDP and the Kurdish movement as a whole think this honourable peace can only be reached with a wide consensus in society. They have shown that in the past by, for example, insisting again and again that a draft for a new constitution, which should bring about such a necessary change of system, should be written not only with the parties represented in parliament, but with civil society organisations as well.

Wide spectrum

And now, the HDP shows this again with the position it is taking in the coalition talks. I had an interesting conversation about that with the brand new Diyarbakir MP Ziya Pir (nephew of the legendary Turkish co-founder of the PKK, Kemal Pir). I asked him how troublesome it would be for the HDP and the Kurds if the outcome of the elections was a coalition of AKP and MHP, both parties with a religious-conservative and nationalist voter base. Then Erdogan’s power might be diminished, but the result would be a government which doesn’t take the stalled peace process seriously at all, or which would even end it for the sake of the coalition.

Ziya Pir told me that an AKP-MHP government is not necessarily bad for the HDP. ‘If we can negotiate with such a government, if we can reach something that would bring peace closer, then such measures would have the support of a wide spectrum of Turkish society. That is crucial for a lasting peace.’

Brandnew HDP MP for Diyarbakir, Pir Ziya
Brandnew HDP MP for Diyarbakir, Ziya Pir

Which also makes clear why an AKP-HDP coalition would make no sense: if deals were made in such a coalition, they would be supported by only a bit more than half of the Turkish voters. That’s not enough. The same applies to any deals reached in a CHP-HDP-MHP coalition, an idea some people seem to find logical. You can of course put the HDP and the MHP on the far ends of a long table with CHP in between, but I don’t think they’d get anywhere. Some say: maybe such a coalition could handle important affairs, like re-start the corruption investigations against former AKP ministers, and leave more controversial topics within such a coalition to deal with later. Oh come on. Who can expect the HDP to join a coalition that can only exist if the topics that are vital to them are not on the table?

Shady deal

The problem with such analysis and speculations is that they are approaching the HDP as just another political party and from a purely political perspective. A perspective of political give and take, of making compromises in parliament (close to impossible to begin with in Turkey…) and shady deals behind the curtains. Since the HDP is not a normal political party, such approaches are wrong. Like months before the elections, when the speculation (and the fear among potential Turkish HDP voters) was that there was some secret deal between the AKP and the HDP and Öcalan: the HDP would support Erdogan’s presidential bid, and the AKP would give for example some extended language rights in return. Believing there would be such a deal only testifies to a lack of knowledge of the movement. No compromises can be made on the goals of the HDP, which are rooted in international law, in the right of nations to self determination. How can you compromise or make shady deals on that?

And this is exactly why all the new voters are not a ‘challenge’ for the HDP. They will never change their goals to keep people on board. They have a solid vision (which distinguished them from most political parties worldwide too) and they’ll stick to it. They will never give up defending gay rights now that more religiously conservative Kurds voted for them. They will never distance themselves from Öcalan because Kemalists in Istanbul or Ankara hate him. Join the HDP, vote for them for whatever reason you like, but don’t expect them to adjust their vision to keep you on board. And if that’s a reason for you to abandon them again, fine. Their struggle, for your rights too, will continue anyway.

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