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What’s next for Turkish Kurds' political movement?

Hit by an unprecedented crackdown, representatives of Turkey’s Kurdish political movement explain their vision for the future.
A supporter holds a portrait of Selahattin Demirtas, detained leader of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) at a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, November 8, 2016, in the absence of Demirtas and other HDP lawmakers who were jailed after refusing to give testimony in a probe linked to "terrorist propaganda".  REUTERS/Umit Bektas - RTX2SH5T
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The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), representing the Kurdish movement in national politics, is the third largest force in Turkey’s four-party parliament. Unlike its predecessors, the party, established in October 2012, adopted a national agenda, deciding to address concerns beyond the Kurds and the Kurdish question. As such, the HDP became the most successful party in the history of the Kurdish movement. In the 2014 presidential elections, party co-chair Selahattin Demirtas garnered 9.7% of the vote, well above the traditional 5%-6% share for Kurdish parties. In the July 2015 general elections, the HDP won 13% of the vote, making it the first Kurdish party to surpass the 10% national threshold to enter parliament. In the snap polls in November that same year, it mustered 10.7% to clinch its current 59 seats in the 550-member parliament.

Meanwhile, local politics in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast have been dominated by the HDP’s sister organization, the Democratic Regions Party (DBP), the Peace and Democracy Party's successor that won 102 local administrations, including 11 provincial capitals, in municipal elections held in March 2014. In a democratic climate, no matter how flawed, the Kurdish base and its representatives were able to exert influence. The HDP played an active role in the 2013-14 settlement process, engaging and even cooperating with the government. Once authoritarian tendencies began to rise in government and violence superseded politics, however, the same Kurdish base and representatives became a huge problem in Ankara's eyes. For nearly two years now, the Turkish state and government have been venting anger at and trying to criminalize the HDP and the DBP.

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