From the July-August 2015 issue of News & Letters
by Eugene Walker
In a stunning June 7 election, the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), a coalition of Kurds and liberals, won 12% of the vote. It will have 80 seats in Turkey’s 550-member parliament. This was part of a sharp rejection of President Erdogan and the 13-year rule of his Justice and Development Party, which lost its absolute majority and faces barriers to any rewriting of the Constitution that would have allowed Erdogan to solidify his rule.
Spontaneous celebrations erupted in many places, people dancing and waving Kurdish flags. For the first time the Kurds have their own representatives in parliament.
Women significantly increased their representation. As reported by ROAR magazine: “The HDP upholds a 40% gender quota and has introduced a system of co-leadership of one man and one woman at all the different levels of organization, thus drawing a lot of support from feminist groups and from women in general. The party openly recognizes the Armenian genocide, fights for the rights of LGBT individuals, promotes the use of minority languages and has a political program stressing the need for decentralization, horizontal democracy and local autonomy. Its pluralist program catered to the needs of a wide range of people, and certainly not exclusively the Kurds.” Erdogan lost a huge number of Kurdish votes over his reactionary attitude to the defense of Kobane.
The elections demonstrated that the important Gezi Park demonstrations and protests of 2013 haven’t been forgotten. Then, millions, encompassing vast sectors of Turkish society, were in the streets throughout the country.
Erdogan was quick to recognize the electoral results. He will not likely cease his authoritarian ways, only seek new ways to impose them. However, he now faces a new reality created by those who wish a very different direction in Turkey.