MESOP : KURDISH ABSTENTIONISM – Smaller Kurdish Groups Boycotting Turkey’s Presidential Poll

By Deniz Serinci 4 hours ago – RUDAW – 10-8-2014 – COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Kurdish activists pushing for a federal state or full independence of Turkey’s largely Kurdish areas are boycotting Sunday’s landmark presidential election because none of the candidates, including leftist Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtas, champion their cause.

Smaller Kurdish parties and organizations including the Rights and Freedom Party (HAK-PAR), the Kurdistan Democratic Party-Turkey (KDPT), the Kurdistan Youth Movement (Tevger) and the Kurdistani Party say they won’t back any candidate in the presidential poll, the first to be held in Turkey. Three candidates are vying for the presidency: Demirtas, current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, an academic and former head of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC.) “All the three candidates are part of the Turkish system and parties who uphold the status quo. Therefore we are boycotting the election,” Ramazan Moray, a HAK-PAR party official, said in a phone interview. Moray, who supports a federal Kurdish state in Turkey, argued that Turkey’s leading parties haven’t supported significant reforms for the Kurdish region and “none of the three candidates have what it requires ensuring a solution to the Kurdish problem.”

The leading Kurdish parties in Turkey, including Demirtas’ People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), support semi-autonomy within Turkey, not independence or federalism. Despite being a leading figure for Kurdish and human rights, “Demirtas continues the Turkish system and does not present himself as a Kurdish candidate,” Moray said. Serhat Merdini, a leader of the Kurdistan Youth Movement, maintained that electing a Kurd as president won’t solve Turkey’s long-standing issues over Kurdish rights and autonomy. “The Kurdish problem is an international problem. If a Kurd becomes Turkish president, he helps legitimize a colonial state,” said Merdini. “We do not want to serve the Turkish state and therefore won’t participate in the election. It’s not an election for us, the Kurds.”

Erdogen, who is ahead in the polls, is expected to split the Kurdish vote with Demirtas although Erdogen’s record on Kurdish issues as prime minister is mixed. He has allowed — for the first time — Kurdish to be taught in schools and Kurdish media outlets to operate, and has opened the door to negotiations with the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK.) However, Erdogen has also beefed up military and security operations in Kurdish areas and an air strike believed to target Kurdish rebels killed 34 Kurdish civilians — mostly teenagers — in 2011. There are still hurdles to basic Kurdish rights. The Kurdistan Youth Movement was established in 2013 to offer music and Kurdish language education to young people. olitically, it advocates for creating an independent Kurdish state. Earlier this year, the Turkish Interior Ministry rejected the movement’s name in official records because it includes the word Kurdistan, which violates the Turkish constitution.

Ibrahim Halil Baran, head of the newly-founded Kurdistani Party, described Demirtas as a “talented politician … But he does not work for Kurdistan’s interests. He works according to Turkey’s interests. It’s important that a Kurdish politician not drop the idea of nationalism,” Baran said. HDP supports an independent Palestinian state, Baran noted, but “when it comes to the Kurds, they want only to talk about rights.” Mehmet Emin Kardas is leader of the New Democratic Party of Kurdistan-Turkey (KDP-T), the first party Ankara officially allowed to have “Kurdistan” in its name. The party supports an independent country with the city of Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey as its capital. “Our voters are free to vote for whomever they want. But we haven’t endorsed anyone because none of the three candidates are in line with our positions,” Kardas said.

“We don’t want to be part of the Turkish system, which does not represent us anyway,” Kardas said.

Still, Kurdish leader Sertac Bucak created a stir last month when he told Rudaw TV that he supports Erdogan for the presidency.”Demirtas is a Kurd, but he doesn’t say that he’s fighting for Kurdish rights,” Bucak said. “He talks about all oppressed peoples and brotherhood. You hear nothing from him regarding the Kurdistan regional problems or independence.”Most polls indicate that Erdogen is the leading candidate and Demirtas has little chance of winning the election.According to Yildiz Akdogan, an expert on Turkey from Aarhus University in Denmark, Erdogan is likely to win the election because he isn’t facing stiff competition, the Turkish economy is strong and despite being accused of corruption, Erdogan has improved services and infrastructure. Erdogan, who leads a moderate Islamist party, has also “been good at playing up conservative values, which also appeals to Kurdish conservatives,” Akdogan said.Demirtas is well known in the Kurdish southeast but Akdogan said, “Many in the wider public don’t know Demirtas. Those who have heard of him know him as someone who only concentrates on the Kurds and that is a disadvantage, as broad appeal is needed to attract more votes.”