HDP leader Demirtaş is the prime target

For days, we have not been debating Ankara’s “change of heart” on the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and the possible consequences. The entire Turkish media is engaged on the issue of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the ending of the cease-fire, the termination of the so-called “peace process,” Turkish air assaults on PKK camps in Iraq, and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

In short, wrapped in nationalist frenzy and fueled by Kurdofobia, we are back at the destructive factory settings which buried the 1990s as the lost decade for Turkey.

In the hands of any desperate politician, it may be the last exit for holding on to power. The debate, the way it goes, poisons everything in its path. It turns the coalition talks between the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Republican People’s Party (CHP) into a mere “chat” (as the sources from within the CHP reveal) for delay and a play for time, and, what’s more interesting, it gives leeway for an “Islamist/nationalist coalition” between the AKP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), for which the “conditions” are ripening as the days go by.

The CHP is possibly being played, since the demonization of the HDP and threats over its legitimate status within Parliament will at the end of the day pose a great challenge for CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. Will the CHP be willing to be part of a hard-liner government which rejects any further peace talks?

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s new “construction” seems to be based on two options: a) If possible, under a minority AKP government, early elections in late autumn, b) By shifting to Kurdophobic hard-line policies, a coalition between the AKP and the MHP that will take the country to new elections next spring.

In the big picture, one detail becomes clear and emerges as a priority. It is the elimination of HDP Co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş as a challenge to Erdoğan’s disrupted plans to introduce the presidential system, or at least to extend Erdoğan’s prospects to rule without being held accountable.

Several days ago, Erdoğan made it clear he would prefer the lifting of the immunities of “some” of the HDP deputies to a full-scale closure of the HDP. Yesterday, he was joined by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who accused Demirtaş of not “being able to condemn the PKK terrorism and slaying of the police officers,” adding that “before our eyes they sit at the chair of the accused.”

So it was only a matter of time before a complaint against Demirtaş would come.

Addressing a criminal complaint based on Demirtaş’s claims of election fraud linked to the AKP, the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office agreed with AKP deputy Süleyman Soylu and decided that Demirtaş had violated the limits of freedom of expression. It asked for the deputy’s immunity from prosecution to be lifted.

Demirtaş seems to have realized that, if anybody, he is the one who both in the presidential election last August and in the June 7 national poll challenged “for real” Erdoğan’s powerful position. With an oratory brilliance and down-to-earth intelligence, he stood out as the emerging star to rattle the ground beneath his adversary. He was able to collect 9.76 percent of the vote in the presidential election, which paved the way for the HDP — thanks much to the all-embracing, across-the-board convincing rhetoric by Demirtaş — to pass the 10 percent election threshold by a large margin.

Erdoğan “the mastermind” leaves, as we all know, nothing to chance. He knows that, if a new election is held, not only will the “theater of violence” for which the HDP is and will continue to be blamed be utterly helpful in making the HDP fall beneath the 10 percent barrier, but so will the discrediting and, he may be hoping, the blocking of Demirtaş, meaning the three parties may “loot” the vote, with the AKP getting the lion’s share. The plan seems to be that the AKP will end up with enough votes to build a government, and keep the hopes for a presidential system alive.

Surely the folly stems mainly from the PKK, which returned to violence. But, as things develop, it will not end there. Both Erdoğan and a large chunk of the “deep Ankara establishment,” one can argue, remain irked by the powerful presence of the HDP in Parliament, and, if the CHP does not act responsibly, Turkey faces long-term social instability due to its old-fashioned politicians’ cynical, myopic and self-destructive behavior.

The danger of an illegitimate “power grab” is not over — yet.

About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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