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Peace and Democracy Party BDP

Prime Minister Erdogan was not the only one celebrating victory in Turkey’s March 2014 nationwide local elections. Turkey's pro-Kurdish BDP party was the other winner in Turkey's local elections, defeating Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling AK Party in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast and and extending its control across virtually the entire region. The BDP expressed impatience with the government-backed peace process and declared it would take steps for greater autonomy. They extended their power base. They overwhelmed even the ruling party. They had the vast majority of the mayorships in southeastern Turkey. They extending their autonomy, their de facto autonomy, through the local elections.

The BDP is demanding decentralization of power, and its leaders have warned that it will start introducing what it calls “democratic autonomy” if the government does not meet its demands. The AK Party has ruled out autonomy, but has indicated it may be open to giving the regions greater powers. many Turks remain deeply suspicious of - if not hostile to - granting greater powers to the Kurdish region, fearing it might ultimately lead to the breakup of the country. The Kurdish rebel group PKK fought the Turkish state for greater minority rights and for many years called for an independent state; however, it dropped the demand for independence, calling instead for autonomy.

Ahmet Turk, co-chairman of the former Democratic Society Party (DTP), announced on 18 December 2009 that the 19 remaining DTP MPs would not resign from the parliament as expected, but would instead join the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). While making the announcement, Turk invoked the name of jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan twice and implied that Ocalan's insistence that the MPs remain in parliament had been a part of the decision to stay. During a December 18 meeting Demir Celik, Chairman of the BDP, stressed that the party would continue to work within a legitimate, democratic framework and that it would represent all citizens of Turkey, not just the Kurds.

The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which took over the reins from the now-banned Democratic Society Party (DTP) in December 2009, held its first party convention on 01 February 2010 in Ankara. Although PKK demonstrators were fewer than at the DTP convention in October 2008, it was clear that the BDP will become an extension of the DTP, following most of the same policies and practices, and aligning themselves closely with the PKK terrorist group.

Around 2,500 supporters attended the Peace and Democracy Party's first party convention on February 1 in Ankara. Sevandir Bayindir, BDP MP from Sirnak, opened the convention with a ten minute speech entirely in Kurdish that garnered great applause from the audience. Speaking in Kurdish while making political speeches is against Turkey's Political Parties Law, and it was likely that charges will be pressed against Bayindir, although prosecution will be postponed due to her immunity as an active parliamentarian. After her speech in Kurdish, she switched to calling upon the government to prove its sincerity to solve the Kurdish issue by engaging with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan as an interlocutor.

Demir Celik, BDP chairman since May 2008, opened the convention by accusing the AKP of attempting to eliminate the Kurds and their "organized power." He called for a democratic confederation of Kurds residing in four countries (Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Iraq) to work together to solve the Kurdish issue. He then stressed that the BDP was a party for all oppressed people in Turkey: Kurds, Alevis, Greek Orthodox, Roma, etc. Although Celik's speech was impassioned, it was obvious that he had been a figurehead for the party that was now run by the former DTP.

The BDP seems not only to be following in the footsteps of the DTP, but pushing further than before in insisting that Ocalan be taken as the interlocutor for a peaceful resolution to the Kurdish issue. It was clear that the BDP is already engaging in party politics in the run-up to the elections scheduled for summer 2011. Their clear and strong anti-AKP rhetoric coupled with a strengthened sense of Kurdish nationalism seemed targeted at those supporters of the former DTP who might be leaning toward supporting the AKP. Moreover, their spoken outreach to other communities in Turkey like the Alevis, Greek Orthodox, Laz, Roma, youth, and women, shows their desire to become a party that can be competitive in the entire country, not just in the Southeast.

Turkey's High Election Board banned 12 independent candidates, supported by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, from running in the 12 June 2011 general election. They registered as independents to circumvent the legal requirement that a party needs 10 percent of the vote for parliamentary representation. The 10 percent barrier is widely considered a means of preventing Kurdish representation. The decision to ban them set off violent protests all over the country. Demonstrator said the basic right of electing and being elected had been taken away from them and the ban is preventing their candidates from entering the parliament. The ban came at the same time the BDP faced legal crackdowns with nearly 2,000 party members currently detained accused of supporting the PKK.

As in every general election in Turkey in the past two decades, the country’s Kurds are again trying to circumvent an unusually high constitutional barrier to send their folks to the parliament in Ankara. The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which is mainly backed by nationalist Kurds supports its members to run as independent candidates to avoid falling below the 10 percent election threshold [a 5 percent threshold is common]. On June 12, over 60 independent candidates backed by the party will race to grab at least 35 seats in the 550-member legislature.

The June 12 parliamentary elections were held under election laws that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) found established a framework for democratic elections in line with international standards. In the June 12 election, 36 independent candidates endorsed by the BDP won seats in parliament. On June 21, the Supreme Electoral Board stripped Hatip Dicle, one of the successful BDP candidates, of his seat on procedural grounds, ruling he was ineligible to run for office to begin with because he had been convicted of “supporting propaganda of a terrorist organization” in the past. His seat went to an AKP member. Even though members of parliament are entitled to immunity from prosecution while they are in office, courts in Diyarbakir blocked the release from prison of an additional five successful BDP candidates, two successful Republican People’s Party candidates, and one Nationalist Movement Party candidate previously imprisoned on KCK-, Ergenekon-, and Balyoz-related charges, respectively.

The BDP and CHP boycotted the parliament to protest the courts’ decision, and the BDP initiated a civil disobedience campaign. On July 11, the CHP ended its boycott. On October 1, the BDP ended its boycott and joined with independent lawmakers to form a parliamentary bloc. The BDP stated it would continue to work to change the laws to enable the release of the BDP members of parliament it endorsed who were in prison.

With the Turkish government mired in corruption allegations, in 2014 it found an unlikely ally. Leading members of the pro-Kurdish movement backed Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's claim that he is the victim of an international conspiracy. Such support is attributed to the belief that Erdogan is key to ongoing peace efforts with the Kurds. The Peace and Democracy Party, normally a critic of Erdogan, has been more reticent in criticizing the government. Earlier this month, BDP parliamentary deputy Sirri Sakik even played down the corruption allegations. Sakik said he did not care very much about the corruption issue, adding "If the money is not stolen that way, it would be stolen in some other way."

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Page last modified: 05-04-2014 19:16:43 ZULU