Turkish Elections: Will Erdogan Garner a Majority This Time?
Scholar and activist Sardar Saadi says the likely outcomes on Sunday include more seats for the AKP and greater momentum behind the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party
SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.
Turkish people are heading to the polls on Sunday for another national election, after the June elections proved to be inconclusive as President Erdogan and his party AKP failed to win an outright majority for the first time since taking power in 2002. Efforts to form a coalition government was also not successful. Since the June election, Turkey has had a bomb attack targeting a peace rally in Ankara earlier this month, leaving more than 100 people dead, and a suicide bomber in Suruc, a town near the Syrian border, killing at least 30 people in July.
Now joining me to discuss all of this, especially the upcoming election is Sardar Saadi. He is an activist and a scholar. He’s joining us from Toronto. Thank you so much for joining us today, Sardar.
SARDAR SAADI: Thanks for having me, Sharmini.
PERIES: So Sardar, let’s begin with the objective of this upcoming election. It is obviously to regain a majority, as far as Erdogan is concerned. But what do you think will happen on Sunday?
SAADI: I think based on many of the labor polls, the results of the June 7 elections will repeat. Probably some ups and downs. The pro-Kurdish Peoples Democracy Party, HDP, which gained historical victory in June elections, they’re probably going to get higher votes despite what Erdogan and the AKP government are wishing for. So there won’t be any surprise after November 1 elections. But we have a couple days till November 1, and hopefully if nothing extraordinary happens in Turkey, the elections will be another, another defeat for what Erdogan and the AKP government are dreaming about, to gain a majority and to continue with their seize of power in Turkey.
PERIES: And what other events on the ground and the, particularly this attack on the peace rally and the 100 people that had been killed. What are the sentiments on the ground leading up to the election?
SAADI: Well, before, even before June 7 elections, there were many attacks against the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy party. And the attack, the peaceful meeting in [inaud.] right before elections. Then as you mentioned, there was another attack against the Kurdish and Turkish leftist activists in Suruc who were trying to go to Khobani and help to reconstruct the city. And then on October 10, the Ankara bombing happened, and over 102 people killed, and many, many injured.
So all of that, we can put it in the context of the ongoing intimidation attacks and the insult by the Turkish government, and specifically by the AKP government against the Kurdish movement, and against the leftists in Turkey. So as we see, people are very hopeful that with these elections they are going to respond another no to this government. And they will insist on the will for change. But unfortunately with Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the president, he doesn’t seem to give up his dream of presidency and changing the constitution of Turkey. There are already some discussions about the third elections, which I feel is unlikely at this moment. But I think this instability is going to continue in Turkey, and unless the people’s movement in Turkey–and not just the Kurds, not the Kurdish movement. But everyone in Turkey come to the streets and respond, make a strong response to this government. We will see this instability and probably more death and more unpleasant developments in this country.
And if we see, if you put Turkey in the context of what’s going on in the Middle East, the whole situation is very fragile. So it’s a big risk for Erdogan and the AKP government to take, and to go for another election, to continue with suppressing the Kurdish movement and the leftists. And we basically can’t predict what’s going to happen. And we just have to wait for the developments after the elections.
PERIES: Sardar, part of Erdogan’s foreign policy platform previously was based on holding a firm stance against Bashar al-Assad, insisting that he must be overthrown in order to end the war in Syria. And Turkey’s also receiving the brunt of the fleeing refugees from Syria. Does any of the parties in this election have a progressive position on the, on receiving the refugees as well as what’s developing in Syria?
SAADI: For sure. And from 2011, like 2011-2012, since the Syrian crisis unfolded, the AKP government and specifically Erdogan, they were accused for playing a disastrous role in the political situation in Syria. They basically supported all kinds of fundamentalist Islamic groups just for the sake of overthrowing Bashar al-Assad’s regime. And they provided all of these groups, like Jabhat al-Nusra, [inaud.] the Islamic State, and they provided them with logistical support, opened the borders for all the foreign Islamic fighters to go to Syria. And we see the mass right now in Syria is probably the main cause of that, was the Turkish foreign policy in the Middle East.
Since then both the Kurdish party, the HDP and the CHP, the republicans’ party, they both oppose this foreign policy of Erdogan and the AKP government. And right now with the refugee crisis they blame what’s going on with all these refugee issues and in Syria, and the fear that the fight in Syria, that the civil war in Syria is going to spread to inside borders of Turkey, and the AKP government. So I mean, right now we see a rise of Islamic fundamentalists in Turkey and they are kind of left loose. And with the bombing in Ankara and what Selahattin Demirtas mentioned, that this crime was happened on the hands of the Turkish state, he was basically saying that leaving ISIS loose and leaving all of these Islamic groups loose in Turkey prepared this environment of terror and these suicide bombers to use this opportunity to attack the Kurds and take revenge against what they’re losing in Syria.
As you know, in Syria the Kurdish groups, the YPG and YPG People’s Defense Unit and Women’s Defense Unit are gaining major victories against ISIS. These victories are not what the Turkish government is hoping for, is looking for. So the kind of fighting in Syria between the Kurds and the Islamic State, and with Bashar al-Assad’s regime involved in this situation, and all the imperial powers in Syria and Iraq, and recently with Russia, we can just see how this mass is spreading all over the region, and it’s getting worse and worse. And the refugee crisis that you mentioned right now, over two million Syrians are in Turkey. And just dealing with this massive number of refugees is a huge issue. And I was in [inaud.] in Turkey, and [inaud.] and I saw how horrible the everyday condition of these refugees are. And the Turkish government, instead of helping them, they’re pushing them to go back to Syria or just to live in such miserable conditions that leave them with no choice rather than going to Greece and taking this very dangerous journey toward Europe.
PERIES: Right. And one last question to you, and that is, the Kurdish HDP made history in June by gaining as many seats as they did. And of course, meeting that 10 percent threshold to get into parliament. Why have they not been more successful at gaining more seats and campaigning in these months that they have had in order to gain a greater majority in parliament?
SAADI: Well Sharmini, just getting this number is a huge victory for the Kurdish movement. Like, if we compare June’s elections with the elections before, traditionally the Kurdish parties, they’re just gaining 5-6 percent. And there are many factors behind that. And right now this 13 percent of the vote is probably not just the Kurdish vote. Many Turkish leftist and peoples who are upset with the AKP government, they also vote for the HDP. And I think the Kurdish population in Turkey are about 25 percent, but not all of them are probably supporting what the, the HDP’s platform is. Like, they are not claiming to be a nationalist, traditionalist party, just representing the Kurdish [inaud.]. They are fighting for larger democratic rights and freedoms in Turkey, and they believe in this fight for building a democratic and free and secular Turkey with all the people in Turkey. But the emphasis on the Kurdish people’s rights and their right for self-determination and autonomy.
So I think this is a moment, and this moment right now has gained some representation in the parliament, and it’s going to grow bigger and bigger. And at the same time, unfortunately we have big, ultranationalist movement in Turkey. So many people from the fear of these ultranationalist groups to gain power, they sacrifice their votes for a better, or probably a more radical choice to some moderate, or seemingly moderate groups like the AKP government.
PERIES: Right. All right. We’re going to be watching out for the results on Sunday, and we look forward to having you back.
SAADI: Thank you.
PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
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