Ankara, April 22, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
Why does the Turkish President fear him – what are the similarities with the Greek Prime Minister and how are they different
By Manolis Kostidis
In March 17, at the meeting of his party’s parliamentary group he took the step and while everybody were waiting for a long speech, he made the shortest speech in the political history of turkish politics, which set the tone of his policy. “We have many issues to discuss, but I have something important to say: “Mr Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as long as there is the HDP, as long as we breathe, you will not be able to become president. You will not become president, will not become president, will not become president”.
Applause broke out, as the president of the pro-Kurdish party HDP Selahattin Demirtas on that day set the tone of his policy and that he will probably be the toughest opponent Erdogan, who wants to concentrate all powers in his hands, has faced to date.
The name of Demirtas was greeted with enthousiasm when he decided to run in the presidential elections held in August 2014. Erdogan was elected president in the first round, but what caused a surprise was the rate Demirtas received, 9.2%. He managed to overcome the usual percentage of votes received by the Kurds, which was about 6-7% across Turkey.
Immediately after the election he took another important decision. The HDP which he leads will appoint candidates throughout Turkey and will claim the votes of all Turks. Until today the Kurds had independent candidates only in the southeastern provinces of Turkey where the majority of Kurds live, as the election threshold in the territory is 10%. That is a party to elect MPs will have to overcome this threshold, something that was impossible for the Kurds. As such the Kurd candidates were being elected as independent MPs, surpassing the required 25% threshold in their city and immediately created a parliamentary group.
Demirtas now changes the rules of the game and goes for the 10% of the votes in the the whole Turkish region. Some consider him brash, but the first results of the polls of vindicate him.
The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, are frustrated by the polls in recent days showing a reduction of the power of the ruling AKP, despite being certain to come first. If these results are verified, it will be impossible for Erdogan to achieve his aim which is to change the Constitution and increase the executive powers of the country’s president after the parliamentary elections on June 7.
Two pollsters, Anar and Genar give 43.7% to the AKP, CHP gets 25.3% and the MIP nationalists 17.6%. Crucial, however, will be the role of the pro-Kurdish HDP, which the poll gives 10.4% and exceeds the 10% election threshold, “stealing” almost 55-60 seats from the AKP.
In this case, the AKP will have a narrow majority in the Turkish parliament with 280-290 seats, while constitutional reforms require 376. Erdogan has set a target of 400 MPs who all now admit that it is impossible. In the parliamentary elections of 2011 the AKP had received 49.9% of the vote.
The Turkish President estimated that after the election of June 7 the AKP will have a 2/3 majority, that is 376 seats in Parliament, to be able to change the Constitution and create a new governing style of Turkey, from Parliamentary democracy to Presidential. That is to gather more executive powers to the standards of France and Russia.
The only reliable barrier to these plans is the HDP.
Is Demirtas the “Tsipras of Turkey”?
Selahattin Demirtas, the day of Alexis Tsipras won the January election, posted a message on Twitter, in Greek, saying: “On behalf of the poor and the workers, Alexis, I wish you a good trip my brother, for a freer world”.
Many Turkish media call the 43-year old Kurdish politician as the “Tsipras of Turkey”. He has Leftish beliefs, is the leader of his party and from the day he took over has raised its rates to the extent that it threatens Erdogan’s dominance. The refreshing word of his proposals, the way he dresses, are almost the same. “Yeah they call me so, what Tsipras has achieved is a dream. He had taken a party of 4% and brought it to power. Why cannot we achieve that as well?”, he said in a televised interview on CNN Türk.
Of course Tsipras with Demirtas also have certain differences. Tsipras speaks foreign languages, while Demirtas speaks only Turkish and Kurdish. And as Hürriyet columnist Ahmet Hakan points out: “Alexis Tsipras gives the impression of the son of the rich Leftish neighbor, while Demirtas looks like the son of a poor Leftish housewife”.
The leader of the pro-Kurdish HDP in the recent election campaign promished to increase the minimum wage by 80%, at 1,800 lira (700 euros), a holiday to all women on Women’s Day, financial assistance to young people (100 Euro), the establishing the Ministry of Youth and Women, 35-hour work, and a 100% increase to the lowest pension, from 900 lira today at 1800 lira.
Demirtas speaks of the democratisation of the country, but for the rights of Kurds, but to get votes from the Turks he is promising populist measures.
Beyond the “Kurdish” dimension, the HDP also gathers many movements and persons who had a significant role in the protest movement that was born from the events in the Gezi park. His success in the Presidential election shows that the strategy is working. He also brings together movements of the liberal left, social democracy, ecology etc.
Indeed an important parameter is the representation of the religious community of the Alevi Muslims, whose electoral objective is the main opposition. Demitras is also supported by groups of different sexual orientations. Indeed, the HDP is the only party that has introduced a quota for candidates in the election: 50% female, 10% from groups with special characteristics.