The Rise of Popularity for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkish General Election

There are several factors that raised the popularity of the Pro-Kurdish people’s Democratic Party both inside and outside Turkey. For the first time in Turkey’s history, a Kurdish political party could enter the parliament with 80 seats. This victory was also the first setback for Erdogan after a decade of power. On the eve of Turkish general election, there may be the question of why the eyes are more on HDP than the ruling justice and development party (AKP). Here, I explain some factors that contributed to the growing popularity and supports to the HDP.

Selahattin Demirtas, co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP)
Selahattin Demirtas, co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP)

Despite the fact that Erdogan has emerged to be a popular leader not only in Turkey but throughout the Middle East, his latest records were not favored neither by Turkish nationalists, Kurds and the international community. Several corruption scandals unveiled against him and members of his family and political party. In response to that, he sacked attorneys, judges, arrested opposition politicians and activists, closed social media networks several times, arrested opposition political parties, accusation on his connection with ISIS, and the fight with Kurds. These factors have changed the perception people towards his political ambitions and fear of turning the country into dictatorship. These accusations have led to the increase of supports to Pro-Kurdish HDP in which considered to be the only possible party to stop Erdogan succession.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan walks between the honor guards wearing Ottoman warriors costumes. Adem Altan/AP
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan walks between the honor guards wearing Ottoman warriors costumes. Adem Altan/AP

The Erdogan main objective is to change the constitution of Turkey and transform the political system from Parliamentary into Presidential system and him as the president with absolute power. This could be the ever dangerous threat to the Turkish secularism and turning the country into the single leader dictatorship. This fear was felt by other opposition groups, leftists and even from outside of Turkey. The only hope to stop Erdogan from such transformation is to ensure that HDP pass the 10 % threshold to enter the parliament. Achieving 10% means the loss of Erdogan and vice versa. So, HDP in the last election was able to even guarantee some votes from the Turkish nationalists. This political move of Erdogan has given a HDP prospect to gain votes from leftists and secularists to preserve the democratic secular Turkey. Opposition parties such as CHP and MHP have used to be rivals of Kurdish political parties in the past, but the HDP victory did not make them upset. In contrast, they were happy for the results as it ceased Erdogan succession.

Another factor that contributes in the rising popularity for HDP is their perception of gender equality and women in power. The HDP, sometimes seen to be the peaceful version or the political version of PKK gives important roles to women. It’s the only political party in Turkey if not in the Middle East to introduce 50% female quota politicians. Besides, all the offices of the party and their municipalities are co-chaired by a man and a woman. Out of 550 candidates, 268 were women. In this number 31 of them won their seats in the parliament in the last election. Their campaign for gender equality has raised their popularities among feminists and other women’s organization.

A Kurdish Women Activists Supporting HDP
A Kurdish Woman Activist Supporting HDP

The HDP perception towards untouched issues that were even taboo to be mentioned in Turkey also made the party to be popular among the LGBT community. The party has provided 10% quota for the LGBT community. There is a large number of LGBTs in Turkey, but they were not represented by any of the political parties previously. However, the HDP was the first ever political party in Turkey to publicly have gay candidates. For the LGBT community it was not only a single representative in the parliament, but it was seen as a revolution and turning point to publicly demands their rights.

Lastly, the HDP is seen to be the only political party in Turkey to truly represent Kurdish and other minority groups. Despite the fact that most of their supporters and leaders are leftist Kurds, but they also supported by minority Armenians, Assyrians, Alavis and others. They have candidates from all ethnic and religious groups. They even attracted Turkish votes and gained a large number of votes in Turkish major cities as in Mersin, Izmir, and Ankara.

Garo Paylan, newly elected Armenian lawmaker from HDP. Reuters / Murad Sezer
Garo Paylan, newly elected Armenian lawmaker from HDP. Reuters / Murad Sezer

Through the aforementioned contributing factors, I can conclude that HDP and their candidates are very colorful in terms of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. They are truly different from other political parties and they try to be what human rights organizations want to fulfill democratic principles. They represent those who used to be exploited by culture, society, ethnic domination, religious domination, and political tyranny. The HDP is not only a political revolution for the Kurds, but it’s a cultural revolution and a model to be followed in the conservative societies.

About the Author
Nabaz is a lecturer at Lebanese French University. He obtained PhD. and Master degree in Public Management, UUM. He also holds a bachelor degree in Politics & International Relations, UKH. Nabaz is more interested to write on current political, economic and financial issues in the Middle East.
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