TODAY’S MESOP EDITORIAL / Mr. Hasip Kaplan (BDP Deputy) Interview: Kurdish Problem and Being the Voice of the ‘Others’

ResearchTurkey – – November 28, 2012 – Interview – One of the most serious anomalies of Turkish politics is the closing of political parties. The number of political closed parties reached 28 with the closure of Democratic Society Party (DTP). Although the name of the new party, which is established after closure changes the motto of the new political party remains the same.

When such a party tradition is expressed, Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) immediately comes to mind as the actor who tries to voice Kurdish issue and demolish the taboos that are not dared to be discussed. As ResearchTurkey, we have conducted an interview with Mr. Hasip Kaplan, the well know face of BDP, BDP deputy and BDP group deputy chairman, regarding the Kurdish Issue, party’s political standing, electorate profile and the party’s legislative acts.

The Full Text of the Interview: ‘Founded to tackle challenges and expand the achievements’

What kind of a political party is Peace and Democracy Party?

The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), is a party that has been in the realm of Kurdish legal politics since 1990s. It was founded to continue to tackle challenges and expand the achievements during that era. BDP is a party founded after People’s Labor Party (HEP), Democracy Party (DEP), Freedom and Democracy Party (ÖZDEP), People’s Democracy Party (HADEP), Democratic People’s Party (DEHAP), and Democratic Society Party (DTP). However, the party participated in the 2011 election by promoting independent candidates, but still recorded its highest achievement in this election-cycle and has increased the number of deputies in the Grand Assembly.

‘Challenges for the democratic representation of political parties’

How many seats did BDP have in the last election?

While BDP had only 20 deputies before 2011 election, by forming a political block with candidates representing different segments the number of deputies has increased to 36. This was an impressive achievement when the Turkish electoral system is considered. As you know, the existence of 10% election threshold, in which political parties have to go beyond, and persistence of anti-democratic treasury grant threshold of 7% creates serious challenges for the democratic representation of political parties. This anti-democratic system is an artifact of the 1980 military coup and is still in circulation. BDP is the most disadvantaged party regarding both electoral and treasury grant threshold. Our party could not get any treasury grants while the electoral threshold has shackled us in the matter of representation.

During the election period, was your party’s decision to support independent candidates, instead of participating in elections as a party, offered as a solution for this problem of electoral system?

Absolutely! 10% of electoral threshold means collecting 7 million of the people’s vote for a political party. BDP’s electoral target generally consists of Kurdish population in the East and South East Anatolia. When these areas are considered the BDP has had serious electoral success in those regions. However, the situation is somewhat more complicated in metropolis such as Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir. Besides, we had one representative from both Adana and Mersin. We lost in Ankara, Izmir and Antalya by a low margin.

‘If we had entered the election as a party, we would have 86 deputies in the parliament’

You mentioned that BDP has also increased its constituency in metropolis. Why did not the candidates from BDP entered into the election under the umbrella of party? This point has been discussed by many intellectuals and other civil actors who are close to BDP. Therefore, we repeat our question because this issue is still debatable. Would it still be wrong if BDP entered the elections as a party?

No, it surely would be better to enter the election as a party. If we had entered the election as a party, we would have 86 deputies in the parliament. However, this decision would be risky when the Turkish political conditions and the long election processes are considered. Election process brings all kinds of risks and tricks with it. When we considered these tricks and cheats the important thing to remember is that our primary responsibility is voicing the claims of our electorates in the parliament rather than obtaining more seats.

‘Most active and the most enthusiastic opposition party in the Assembly’

BDP also differs from other parties by taking part in the election as a block party. Is this possible to read this as the expansion of BDP’s political base?

There is a truth that everyone knows: ‘each political party has its own sociological base’. You have intentions and claims depending on your sociological base. Political parties become effective and successful as long as they give a voice to the demands of their supporters. Being successful and effective is directly proportional to its persuasiveness. The majority of the BDP’s base is Kurdish constituents. In this context reaching a peaceful and democratic solution of Kurdish problem, as well as their economic and social underdevelopments, is at the top of our political agenda. Party’s establishing a block party in the assembly should also be considered as the sign of our expanding electoral basis. In the context of faith and religious values BDP is also voicing the demands of different belief systems, such as the Alevis and Assyrians who are labeled as “others”. Additionally, laborers are another strong group in the base of BDP. BDP also has leftist democratic claims favoring our labor friends. In the last elections, acting according to the block decision we included some Assyrian and socialist deputies. Accordingly, I believe that the most active and the most enthusiastic opposition party causing to voice the demands of masses is the BDP.

‘It would not be wrong to claim that any other party having this much imprisoned member would have already self-terminated’

We mentioned the activism of BDP; however there is a situation that BDP is co-kept with terrorism, how does this case affect BDP?

Six deputies of BDP are in prison right now. Additionally, 37 Mayors and 200 city council members and thousands of managers are imprisoned. It would not be wrong to claim that any other party having this much imprisoned member would have already self-terminated. It is closely related to the broad definition of terrorism in Turkey that BDP and its supporters are so resistant and we have been exposed to thousands of government-led operations. There is no act or instrument -even a ‘knife’!- of violence recorded in any of the files of imprisoned people having links with BDP. There are many prisoners who are put into jail because of using their purely democratic right, freedom of expression. This problem is a by-product of broad definition of terrorism. This situation proves that both the accusations and the courts have deep political prejudices. It is also worth to indicate that due to this broad definition of terrorism in Turkey lots of people such as painters, authors, those who express themselves in the arenas, singers and the dancers are labeled as terrorists. Currently, the number of the people imprisoned due to terrorism in Turkey is more than the overall number of terrorists in the world. This results again from the definition of terrorism in Turkey! This causes labeling writers, painters, readers and the ones expressing themselves as terrorists!

Is this situation a particular reflection of the democratic deficit in Turkey?

Unfortunately, yes. There is no freedom of thought, freedom of expression, freedom of speech and freedom to write in Turkey. The most explicit example is imprisoned 87 journalists and 40 advocates who are near to our party. Our 72 party members, who are also members of KESK, are arrested. This situation is related with BDP’s democratic- leftist claims, projects on human rights, state of law, democracy and labor. We will bring a new constitution and electoral system. We want to establish a new democratic system free from leader domination, party hegemony and system parties. This separates us from the other parties. It is evident that we are a different party having a say for many issue such as environment, nature, culture and history. Trade union rights and freedoms, occupational security and health, social insurance are also our top priorities.

‘In one year, we have submitted 203 motions. Only 4 of them are related to the Kurdish problem’

One of the most frequent criticisms towards BDP is that the party only focuses on the Kurdish problem. Are these criticisms valid?

The most evident answer to this question is the motions we have submitted to parliament. In one year, we have submitted 203 motions. Only 4 of them are related to the Kurdish problem. 74 of them were about the economy, agriculture, and environment. The reason is that national media creates this perception (that we take only the Kurdish problem in our agenda). The motions submitted by BDP, which are related with Kurdish problem, do not receive media attention. If you conduct a research on the official records, you can easily understand what I mean.

‘Our opposition is evident at the parliament’

Another important issue is BDP’s participation in commissions. What are the membership criteria to these commissions is membership parallel with the proportion of seats that your party has in the assembly?

Actually it is not. You know, after the elections, we protested the assembly because of our deputy friends were arrested and in prison. So deputies from BDP did not attend the meetings in which critical decisions were made. The ruling party and Nationalist Action Party had increased the number of commissions from 25 to 29. Despite we increased our number of deputies in the parliament; our membership to commissions still has been limited to just 1 commissioner. The crucial point is that if the number of commissions were held at 30 instead of 29, BDP would have been represented by 2 commissioners instead of 1. However, the number has been kept at 29. We believe this is cheating and is something that was not done with good will. However, we do not let this to demoralize us. As a party, we focus on parliament activities. We actively participate in the legislative acts. We are trying to be active in critical commissions, particularly as Constitution commission, Plan and Budget commission, Human Rights commission, Justice Commission. Our opposition is evident at the parliament.

Well, this case in Commission cannot be corrected?

To achieve this, Turkey’s four main parties should come together and reach an agreement. We are working towards this objective. We hope this situation will be corrected.

Thank you so much for allocating your time for ResearchTurkey and participate in our interview Mr. Kaplan.

You are welcome. I wish you success.

Please cite this publication as follows:

ResearchTurkey (November, 2012), “Mr. Hasip Kaplan (BDP Deputy) Interview: Kurdish Problem and Being the Voice of the ‘Others’”, Vol. I, Issue 9, pp.21-26, Centre for Policy Analysis and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, ResearchTurkey. (