HDP's election bet: a calculated risk or Kurdish roulette?

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Article Summary
Turkey's pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party decided to run for elections as a single party instead of independent candidates. If it can’t pass the 10% electoral threshold, Turkey will enter into a highly uncertain period.

If the pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP) can overcome the threshold of 10% of the total vote in the coming general elections, thus achieving a chance to become an effective main opposition, why shouldn’t it take a calculated risk?

Despite the anti-democratic 10% threshold, the HDP’s decision to run in the 2015 elections, not with independent candidates but as a single party, is the correct election strategy.

All the attention of the print and visual media, political parties, think tanks, polling companies and most important, the public, is now focused on the HDP. Can the HDP overcome the 10% barrier? What if it does or doesn’t? What will happen then?

In Turkey, where the agenda is regularly set by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), the HDP succeeded in creating an agenda by itself and became the focal point of the debate on the executive presidential system.

Inside the country, all attention is on the HDP, with newspaper columns and TV programs constantly discussing it. The basic question of all public opinion polls nowadays is the potential ramifications of the HDP passing or not passing the election threshold.

Abroad, the United States and particularly the EU are watching the HDP carefully. Attention is bound to increase.

I am one of those of who says the HDP decision was correct and effective. With this decision, the HDP became the key party of the coming elections. It became the game-maker — or the spoiler.

The most important strategy of parties to succeed in elections is to enter those elections with attention-grabbing, game-changing, effective and persuasive narratives.

That narrative has to have a strong vision, should be diverse, must call for a strong, effective Turkey and must be persuasive for the voters.

The basic issues of the 2015 elections are the presidential system argument of Erdogan and the AKP, and the debate on the consequences for Turkey and the HDP region in terms of the 10% threshold.

As long as these two parties occupy the agenda, I think the HDP will come closer to passing the threshold and its standing in the eyes of voters will be fortified.

It will be difficult, but the HDP can pass the threshold, which would be the beginning of new era in Turkey’s politics, in the solution process with the Kurds and in regional developments. The key and influential element in post-election Turkey’s discussion of a new constitution and the presidential system will be the HDP.

This is a positive development.

But if the HDP cannot pass the threshold, post-election Turkey would head into a turbulent and highly uncertain period. This would be a negative development.

In both possibilities, the key actor is the HDP. We must stress again that as long as these possibilities are discussed, the potential of the HDP to overcome the threshold barrier will be more attractive to wider segments of society, the state and political actors.

My dear friend Yavuz Baydar, in his daily Bugun column of Jan. 30 titled “Kurdish Roulette,” criticized my views and said there was very little likelihood that the HDP would pass the threshold. He likens the HDP decision to playing roulette, which could end up in heavy losses and would only help the quest of the president and AKP for a presidential system.

There are many commentators who share Baydar’s views. They think that it would be wiser for the HDP to enter the elections with independent candidates that would give it 25-30 seats in the parliament, and that even if it passed the threshold as one party it could gain at most 10 more seats. This minor gain doesn’t justify the risk taken, they contend.

I understand this view, but don’t agree with it.

If there is an increasing likelihood for the HDP to overcome the 10% barrier — especially if the HDP has the potential to divert votes from the AKP and opposition CHP constituencies, Alevis and the social democratic and leftist-liberal secular middle class — why shouldn't it enter the elections as a single party?

If the HDP can overcome the 10% vote threshold and thus achieve the opportunity to become an effective main opposition, why shouldn’t it take a calculated risk?

The HDP could pass the threshold by getting 800,000 to 1.2 million votes, which would give it 50 to 60 parliamentary seats. This would be a significant qualitative and quantitative difference from sitting in the parliament with independent candidates. This what HDP wants. Of course, this a decision with certain risks but a strategically correct one.

The actors with the right narrative, who read the developments correctly and take risks, can win. This is what the HDP is doing. If it sees the threshold as insurmountable, the HDP can revert to independent candidates. But for today that is not the right decision, but only a Plan B.

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Found in: turkey, strategy, recep tayyip erdogan, presidential system, people's democracy party, kurds, elections
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