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Turkish justice wants to ban the pro-Kurdish HDP party in the name of Turkey's integrity

Written by Frédéric Dubessy on Thursday, March 18th 2021 à 14:55 | Read 614 times

The existence of the HDP is on hold (photo: HDP)
The existence of the HDP is on hold (photo: HDP)
TURKEY. After Bekir Şahin, chief prosecutor of the Court of Cassation, launched a procedure before the Constitutional Court on the evening of Wednesday, March 17, 2021, to have the Peoples' Democratic Party (Halkların Demokratik Partisi - HDP) banned, reactions are multiplying. This left-wing, pro-Kurdish movement is suspected by the Turkish government of links with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), considered by Turkey to be a terrorist organization.

In the indictment - a 609-page text made public Thursday, March 18, 2021 - the General Prosecutor's Office clearly states, "there is no difference between the HDP party and the PKK (...) The HDP is the political branch of the armed terrorist organization PKK." The document states that the HDP has "become the focus of acts targeting the unity and integrity of the Turkish state" and that "the HDP has never stood by Turkey in any national issue, but always stands by its opponents." According to the indictment, "the dissolution of the HDP is legally indispensable to ensure the integrity of Turkey and the security and peace of the nation.

It remains for the Constitutional Court to rule on this indictment so that it can be used as a basis for a trial.

The reactions were not long in coming. Started with that of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In a speech on Thursday 18 March 2021 at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, he relayed the prosecution. Two sentences pronounced during the awarding of medals were unequivocally aimed at this issue: "The Seljuk and Ottoman empires were overthrown mainly because of internal and external divisions. We will not allow our state, which has not yet reached its centenary, to share the same fate." He continued, "They have used all means to bring us to our knees, ranging from terrorism to coup d'état, but their efforts have been in vain. They will not succeed in their evil intentions."

The HDP, the third political force in the country

In a statement, Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar, co-chairs of the HDP, spoke out against the dissolution of their party. "We call on all democratic forces, all social and political opposition forces and our people to fight together against this political putsch," they wrote.

The end of the HDP, with fifty-five elected deputies in Parliament, would effectively muzzle the opposition to the Islamo-conservative Recep Tayyip Erdogan (AKP - Justice and Development Party). Especially since the request of the chief prosecutor of the Court of Cassation - appointed in June 2020 by the President of the Turkish Republic - also includes a ban on political office against 600 members of the HDP. This measure would prevent them from founding a new party and would put them out of the political debate.

The pro-Kurdish party remains the third largest political force in the country. Its candidate, Selahattin Demirtaş, came in at this rank (ahead of Muharrem Ince - CHP - and his 30.64% of the ballots) in the last two presidential elections with 9.76% of the votes in 2014 and 8.40% in June 2018 or 3.95 and 4.20 million votes obtained respectively. In these two elections, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was re-elected with 52.59% of the vote in 2018 (under the label of the Cumhur coalition, an alliance between the AKP and the nationalist party MHP) and with 51.79% in 2014 (under the AKP banner). The next presidential election is expected to be held in 2023. Following the constitutional revision that he had adopted by 51.4% of the vote, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who combines the posts of president and prime minister, can hope to remain in power until 2029.

Selahattin Demirtaş, is still, since November 2016, in a Turkish prison. This had not prevented him from being a candidate in June 2018. The European Court of Human Rights condemned, at the end of December 2020, Turkey for this incarceration and called for his "immediate release" on the grounds that "the purposes put forward by the Turkish authorities in relation to his pre-trial detention were merely a cover for an unavowed political purpose, which is of undeniable gravity for democracy."

The United States calls on Turkey to respect freedom of expression

The coup attempt in July 2016 allowed Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reduce his opposition (photo: F.Dubessy)
The coup attempt in July 2016 allowed Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reduce his opposition (photo: F.Dubessy)
Selahattin Demirtaş shares the fate of the many victims of the purges decreed by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after an attempted coup in July 2016. Some 26,000 HDP activists and supporters had been imprisoned. Thirteen former deputies were also imprisoned and a fourteenth, Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, was just stripped of his mandate on Wednesday, March 17, 2021, after the Turkish National Assembly approved the lifting of his parliamentary immunity and confirmed, in the last instance, a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence for "terrorist propaganda." The elected representative denounced "a violation of the constitution" and declared that he would not leave the hemicycle unless forced to do so. The NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), through its representative in Turkey, Emma Sinclair-Webb, called the act "a shocking attack on democratic norms and the rule of law as well as a violation of the Turkish Constitution and obligations under international law."

Internationally, the announcement on the HDP is going over rather badly. The United States has gone on record as saying that its dissolution "would unduly subvert the will of Turkish voters, further undermine democracy in Turkey, and deprive millions of Turkish citizens of their elected representatives." U.S. diplomatic spokesman Ned Price "calls on the Turkish government to respect freedom of expression" and says that "the United States is closely monitoring events in Turkey, including the troubling March 17 actions to deprive parliamentarian Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu of his seat."


​EU denounces violation of democratic standards

In a joint statement issued Thursday, March 18, 2021, Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union, and Olivér Várhelyi, European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, state that "the European Union is deeply concerned about the decision to strip the People's Democratic Party member of the Turkish Grand National Assembly Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu of his parliamentary seat and parliamentary immunity and his imminent incarceration as well as the launch of a judicial process initiated by the Court of Cassation prosecutor to request the dissolution of the HDP." According to them, this decision "would violate the rights of millions of voters in Turkey. This adds to the EU's concerns about the decline of fundamental rights in Turkey and undermines the credibility of the Turkish authorities' stated commitment to reform.

Turkey remains a candidate for EU membership even though this prospect is becoming increasingly remote. Josep Borrell and Olivér Várhelyi therefore call on Ankara to "urgently respect its fundamental democratic obligations, including respect for democracy, human rights and the rule of law. In January 2020, during an official visit to Brussels, Recep Tayyip Erdogan had decided to finally take the hand extended for months by the EU by affirming his willingness to "create a positive climate. The Turkish president had also declared, ten days before in Ankara in front of the ambassadors of the Member States posted in Turkey, that he wanted "to put its relations with the European Union back on track."


Established in October 2012 (operational in October 2013), the HDP is the result of a meeting of thirty-three political formations (associations and groups) and seven political parties*.
It is associated with the Party of European Socialists and the Progressive Alliance. In addition to the rights of the Kurds, it intends to "represent Turkish society in its diversity". The HDP advocates a political ecology and defends the rights of women and LGBT people.
*Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), Socialist Revolutionary Workers' Party (DSIP), Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP), Socialist Democracy Party (SDP), Socialist Refoundation Party (SYKP), Left Party of the Greens of the Future (YSGP), Labour Party (EP)

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