The Turkish local elections on 30 March 2014 have been a major victory for the ruling AK-Party which is based on Islamic values. It is been said that these elections were a big test for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who faces serious allegations of corruption. The voting results shows that Turkish citizens still endorse their Prime Minister: his AK-Party won with 44% of the votes which represents a 6% decrease compared to the general elections in 2011.
In total they have won 51 out of 81 states. The second winner is the Kurdish BDP who has won the most states in their home area: South East Turkey.
It was an election containing all the elements of a true thriller: riots and election violence which resulted in the killing of 8 people, dispute over the capital Ankara which the AKP booked a narrowly victory, three female candidates made history by becoming the first female major of the countries metropolitan cities and one of them in Diyarbakir: the largest city in South East Turkey where Kurdish people are the big majority of the region (Hurriyet, 2014; Anadolu Agency, 2014).
The campaign between the four big parties can be described as harsh. Especially between the AK-Party and their main challenger the Republican’s People’s Party, the CHP of Chairman Kemal Kiliçdaroglu. The third party, the Nationalists People’s Party, MHP, and the Kurdish Democratic and Peace Party, BDP, were also conducting a hard campaign against Erdogan’s AK-Party and vice versa. The opposition parties were all accusing the AK-Party of corruption with hard language by calling him a ‘thieve’. Some of the accusations were based on recordings of several conversations between top AKP members which even included the Prime Minister, and led to the resignation of three Ministers on December 17th, 2013.
One of the recorded conversations depict Erdogan instructing his son to hide millions of dollars cash which is denied by the Prime Minister who said that it was fabricated (Letsch, 2014)
Another leaked conversation depicts the deputy chief of staff, the intelligent chief, the Secretary and undersecretary of Foreign Affairs conversing on a war against Syria under a false flag operation. This last tape was just released a few days before the elections and thereafter have YouTube and twitter been blocked under the name of national security (Moore, 2014). It is widely assumed that the movement of the Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, and who is involved in a power struggle with Erdogan, released these conversations. Gülen is an influential Ieader whose Hizmet movement (Turkish for Service) has hundreds of schools in more than a 100 countries scattered over Europe, Central Asia, Africa and the USA. Education is the trademark of this organization. However it is also believed that Hizmet holds influential key positions at the police, the judiciary, and the intelligence services in Turkey.
The accusations of corruption and the leaking of phone conversations was, according to Erdogan, a conspiracy of foreign and internal powers, hereby referring directly to Gülen and indirectly to the USA and Israel. As the voting results shows; this argument has enjoyed significant credibility among the Turkish people. It was an enormous disappointment for the CHP since they could not profit from all the scandals of the AK-Party. The CHP aimed to receive 30% of the votes but just had 28% and have won only 13 states, which is a slightly increasing compared to the last elections.
The BDP contains 7% of the votes if there independent candidates (for vote technical reasons) will be counted as BDP (Source Anadolu Agency).
The second winner
The second winner of the elections was the Kurdish BDP that is strongly connected to the PKK, the guerilla movement of jailed leader Abdullah Öçalan who was captured in 1999 by Turkish authorities after being the most wanted man for since his PKK started a guerilla war 1984 for an independent Kurdistan.
The BDP participates in the elections since the eighties although many times under different names since the party was banned several times under accusations of ‘terrorist activities’. Up until the uprising of the AKP in 2002 they had won the elections in the South East region by huge majorities. Nowadays however, the BDP are sharing the votes with the AKP, who appeal to the Islamic identity of the Kurdish people who are in general quite religious, while the BDP appeals to the ethnicity of the Kurdish people.
Nevertheless, the 2014 election can be seen as a victory for the BDP since they have won almost all the states in the South East region including two take-overs from the AKP: Mardin, and Bitlis. They also maintained their leading position in Diyarbakir, a symbolic city that was once considered as the capital of a future independent Kurdistan, and Van the other major city of the region. This result awards the party a stronger position in the negotiations with the AK-Party regarding the Kurdish issue, since they can now portray themselves as the representatives of the majority of the Kurdish people. Moreover this result may strengthens their demand of ‘democratic autonomy’ of the South East region. On the other hand can the AKP argue that the BDP is not the only representative of citizens with a Kurdish background since they are the second party in the region.
It must be acknowledged that the position of the Kurds under the AK-Party governance has been improved through the implementing of some serious reforms: the ban on Kurdish languages and identity was lifted, the celebrations of Kurdish holidays are allowed, and some economic investments are made in the relatively poor region. Erdogan claimed numerous times that his administration made an end to the “ignorance politics” or the “assimilation policy” of his predecessors, while the BDP attributes this to the result of their struggle (http://www.dw.de/turkish-pm-unveils-reforms-to-increase-rights-of-kurdish-minority/a-17128423) .
Nevertheless it was in late 2012 that Erdogan has said that the negation process with Imrali continues, referring to the island where Öçalan is serving his life sentence. It can be seen as a great improvement for him personal as for his PKK that Turkey are acknowledging them as interlocutors of the conflict. The state once portrayed Öcalan as the greatest enemy of the state through a tremendous smear campaign in the media for the past 25 years. A few months after the announcement gave Öcalan a written statement that was read by BDP MP’s on Newroz, the Kurdish New Year, in which Öcalan called for a cease-fire, a withdrawal from Turkish territory, and an end to the armed struggle (Letsch, 2013). A well-equipped modern army that fought a tuff guerilla war against the PKK with human right violations on both sides and resulting of 40.000 dead’s came, at least for temporarily, to an end (Sinclair-Webb).
This cease-fire has been in place for a year and can also be considered a huge improvement
In his last statement, which was read on the 21st March of 2014, on the Newroz holiday, the jailed leader praised dialogue and that both parties have shown goodwill while concurrently criticizing the government for delaying the peace process. At the same time he called to choose the path of ‘democracy’ and warned against certain elements that threatens the negotiation process (FiratNews, 2014) .
The BDP has repeatedly stated that the key to the resolution lays in Imrali and are asking for the release of Öçalan as their condition to bring peace. It would be a real spectacle if this condition were to be met, which will lead to the leader being perceived by his followers as their ‘Kurdish Nelson Mandela’. Furthermore the Kurds are no longer demanding an independent state, but a system of federalism with autonomous regions (Hurriyet Daily News, 2012)