The fears are confirmed. Two simultaneous terror attacks against the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) offices in Mersin and Adana — wounding at least three people — leave little doubt on efforts to destabilize the already fragile social fabric of Turkey, only weeks before the utterly critical general elections.
This escalation of fear has a background: According to Figen Yüksekdağ, co-chairperson of the HDP, there have already been 59 attacks — arson, vandalism, and destruction – against the party’s representatives in the past three weeks.
I have been witness to one of these attacks. By coincidence, I found myself in the midst of a nasty street fight between Kurds, who had opened an HDP booth in Kuzguncuk — one of the most peaceful districts at Bosphorus — and Turkish nationalists. The booth was torn down and the fight went on for a long time before police arrived, far too late.
In the background of rising tension, which has resulted in bloody incidents in Mersin and Adana, one can easily find a polarization encouraged by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s divisive rhetoric.
But there is also another element about which many pollsters, three weeks before the election, seem to agree: The votes continue to escape the ruling AKP, and no matter how much Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has been trying and how hard President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan — at the cost of breaching the constitution — rushes to rescue, the ‘bleeding’ cannot be stopped.
As I have repeatedly argued in this column, it is now clear that Erdoğan has not meant any serious business with the Peace Process, other than securing an elections atmosphere through which his power be consolidated further. All the efforts by the so-called ‘wise people’ committees and fancy declaration of protocols seem to have no other potential than to dupe people.
So, by each and every escalation of tension — along with the now disrupted talks with the jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan — leading figures of the Kurdish political movement find themselves in the midst of a tough ‘learning process’. Yet, a careful examination of HDP rhetoric, as well as messages coming in from PKK bases in Kandil, does reveal a level of patience. The Kurdish population knows that should one respond to provocations and take to the streets, it would serve the interests of Erdoğan, who would find fertile ground to invite back the nationalist vote.
But, if the attacks continue and the authorities do not protect the safety of the HDP campaigns, it will be difficult to control the crowds. This is also possible if the HDP fails to pass the 10 percent threshold by a small margin.
It is common these days to hear people from different walks of the opposition muttering, “My God, let election day come with no painful incidents and calamity.”
Fear, in general, runs very deep. It has to do with the consistent rhetoric of Erdoğan and his prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu that “the system is so worn out that a new one is needed.”
More importantly, it has to do with a Gordion Knot of the current Turkish political scene. All four competing parties are stuck in staunch, exclusive identities: The Justice and Development Party (AKP) as Sunni, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) as mainly Alevi. The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) is as entrenched in Turkish nationalism as the HDP is positioned in Kurdish nationalism. This deadlock offers no promises for compromises or cooperation across the party lines.
The soft spot for the AKP, when translated onto realpolitik, is to see to it that the HDP fails to pass 10 percent barrier. This, coupled with the regaining of a part of the nationalist vote from the MHP, would give Erdoğan a breathing space with a slight majority to help continue his rule.
The entry of the HDP into Parliament would turn upside down the 12 year-long political status quo. So, expect a negative focus and a further demonization of the HDP campaigns.
Bekir Ağırdır, a reputed pollster with KONDA Research and Consultancy, claimed yesterday that the AKP will likely end up with fewer than 300 seats; at best enough to go on as a simple majority government. It may also end up with a lower figure, opening up the necessity of a coalition.
I agree with Ağırdır, who argues that in such a situation the AKP will seek a coalition with the nationalist MHP. No matter what happens, the crisis is looming from June 8 on.