Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter August 13, 2015

A Democratic Opening? The AKP and the Kurdish Left

Kathleen Cavanaugh and Edel Hughes

Abstract

Since its foundation, militant democratic arguments have underpinned an enforced secularism in Turkey. The 2002 election of the AKP, described as a “moderate Islamist party”, has challenged Turkey’s secular identity. In the more than twelve years since the AKP has been in power, Turkey’s political landscape has experienced significant changes, with periods of extensive democratic reforms punctuated by regression in certain areas, notably freedom of expression and the right to protest. State repressive measures coupled with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s reluctance to exit the political stage have been the focus of much commentary and analysis. This article argues, however, that under AKP rule the Kurdish issue – critical to ensuring the normalization of politics and democratization in Turkey – has been brought in from the political cold and assesses the creation and role of the HDP (Halkların Demokratik Partisi), a Kurdish political party that is endeavoring to situate itself in the mainstream of Turkey’s political landscape. We posit that the HDP can be viewed as the offspring of this “democratic opening,” a project that was meant to ensure a radical transformation of the Kurdish issue in Turkey. Through analysing the historical trajectory of both AKP and HDP and the militant democratic arguments that led to their predecessors’ exclusion from the public sphere, this article engages with the key question of the extent to which the AKP’s treatment of the Kurdish issue has provided a vehicle for broader democratisation and facilitated a reconsideration of the Kurdish question in Turkey.

Keywords: Turkey; AKP; HDP

Funding statement: Funding: The authors are grateful for funding received from the British Academy/Leverhulme Trust and the Sir Ernest Cassel Educational Trust, which facilitated research for the completion of this article.

References

Acar, A. 2014 “The Electoral Threshold Case in Turkey.” Blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law and ConstitutionMaking.org. Accessed December 13, 2014. http://www.iconnectblog.com/2014/12/the-electoral-threshold-case-in-turkey/#_ftn2. Search in Google Scholar

Akarçeşme, S. 2013. “High threshold prevents full representation in Turkey.” Today’s Zaman. Accessed April 27, 2015. http://www.todayszaman.com/national_high-threshold-prevents-full-representation-in-turkey_322669.html. Search in Google Scholar

Akkaya, A. H., and J. Jongerden. 2012. “Reassembling the Political: The PKK and the project of Radical Democracy.” European Journal of Turkish Studies. Accessed February 11, 2015. http://ejts.revues.org/4615. Search in Google Scholar

Arıkan Akdağ, G. 2015. Ethnicity and Elections in Turkey: Party Politics and the Mobilization of Swing Voters. London and New York: Routledge. Search in Google Scholar

Aydogan, A., and J. B. Slapin 2013. “Left–Right Reversed: Parties and Ideology in Modern Turkey.” Party Politics 19:1–11. Search in Google Scholar

Aydınlı, E. 2012. “Civil-Military Relations Transformed.” Journal of Democracy 23 (1):100–8. Search in Google Scholar

Barchard, D. 2005. “The Rule of Law.” In The EU and Turkey: A Glittering Prize or a Millstone?, edited by M. Lake, 87–107. London: Federal Trust. Search in Google Scholar

Çandar, C. 27 January 2015 “Turkey’s leftists, Kurds celebrate Syriza victory”. Al-Monitor. Accessed February 11, 2015. http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/01/turkey-greece-syriza-victory-kurds.html. Search in Google Scholar

Celep, Ö. 2014. “Can the Kurdish Left Contribute to Turkey’s Democratization?” Insight Turkey 16 (3):165–80. Search in Google Scholar

Cizre, Ü. 2011. “Turkey at the Crossroads: From “Change with Politics as Usual” to Politics with Change as Usual.” Insight Turkey 13 (4):83–105. Search in Google Scholar

Dalay, G. 2014. “The Kurdish Peace Process: Ideology, Interest, and the Regional Dynamics.” The German Marshall Fund of the United States, 29 April 2014, Accessed January 28, 2014. http://www.gmfus.org/archives/the-kurdish-peace-process-ideology-interest-and-the-regional-dynamics/. Search in Google Scholar

Dağı, İ. 2008. “Islamist Parties: Turkey’s AKP in Power.” Journal of Democracy 19 (3):25–30. Search in Google Scholar

Ensaroğlu, Y. 2013. “The Kurdish Peace Process: Ideology, Interest, and the Regional Dynamics” Insight Turkey 15 (2):7–17. Search in Google Scholar

Ete, H., Y. Akbaba, G. Dalay, S. O. Ersay, K. B. Kanat, and K. Üstün. 2014. “Turkey’s 2014 Local Elections.” SETA Analysis 2014:4. Search in Google Scholar

European Commission. 1998. “Regular Report on Turkey’s Progress Towards Accession.” Search in Google Scholar

European Commission. 2004. “Regular Report on Turkey’s Progress Towards EU Accession.” Search in Google Scholar

European Commission. 2014. “Joint statement on the police raids and arrests of media representatives in Turkey.” STATEMENT/14/2640, Brussels, December 14 2014. Search in Google Scholar

Gisselbrecht, T. 2014. “The HDP, the Future of Turkish Opposition?” Bridging Europe EU-Turkey Dialogue Initiative Working Paper 1:1–34. Search in Google Scholar

Gumuscu, S., and D. Sert 2009. “The Power of the Devout Bourgeoisie: The Case of the Justice and Development Party in Turkey.” Middle Eastern Studies 45 (6):953–68. Search in Google Scholar

Gumuscu, S., and D. Sert 2010. “The March 2009 Local Elections and the Inconsistent Democratic Transformation of the AKP Party in Turkey.” Middle East Critique 19 (1):55–70. Search in Google Scholar

Göle, N. 2013. “Gezi – Anatomy of a Public Square Movement.” Insight Turkey 15 (3):7–14. Search in Google Scholar

Hürriyet Daily News. 2015. “Turkish Deputy PM accuses opposition of not supporting Kurdish peace process.” Hürriyet Daily News, April 28 2015. Accessed April 28, 2015. Search in Google Scholar

International Crisis Group. 2012. “Turkey: The PKK and a Kurdish Settlement.” Europe Report N 219. Search in Google Scholar

Kandemir, A. 2015. “Turkey’s top court declines to lower 10 percent electoral threshold”. Reuters, January 6 2015. Accessed February 3, 2015. http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/06/us-turkey-election-threshold-idUSKBN0KF1DJ20150106. Search in Google Scholar

Lauer, C. 2015. “Party in a hard place: Turkey’s HDP and the peace process.” Middle East Eye, February 15 2015. Accessed April 28, 2015. http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/party-hard-place-turkey-s-hdp-and-peace-process-2004773303. Search in Google Scholar

Letsch, C. 2011. “Recep Erdogan wins by landslide in Turkey’s general election.” The Guardian. June 13 2011. Search in Google Scholar

Loewenstein, K. 1937a. “Militant Democracy and Fundamental Rights I.” The American Political Science Review 31 (3):417–32. Search in Google Scholar

Macklem, P. 2006. “Militant Democracy, Legal Pluralism, and the Paradox of Self-Determination.” Int J Constitutional Law 4 (3):488–516. Search in Google Scholar

Özbudun, E. 2013. “The Turkish ‘Democratization Package’.” Middle East Institute blog, October 15, 2013. Accessed December 15, 2014. http://www.mei.edu/content/turkish-“democratization-package. Search in Google Scholar

Patton, M. J. 2007. “AKP Reform Fatigue in Turkey: What Happened to the EU Process?” Mediterranean Politics 12 (3):339–58. Search in Google Scholar

Pope, H. 2014. “Turkey and the PKK: Saving the Peace Process.” International Crisis Group, Europe Report N 234. Search in Google Scholar

Sajó, A. 2006. “From Militant Democracy to the Preventive State?” Cardozo Law Review 27:2259. Search in Google Scholar

Şahin, O. 2014. “Turkey’s high court could pull rug from under AKP.” Al Monitor. December 22 2014 Search in Google Scholar

Schwedler, J. 2006. Faith in Moderation: Islamist Parties in Jordan and Yemen. New York: Cambridge University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Smith, T. W. 2005. “Civic Nationalism and Ethnocultural Justice in Turkey.” Human Rights Quarterly 27:436–70. Search in Google Scholar

Tezcür, M. G. 2009. “Kurdish Nationalism and Identity in Turkey: A Conceptual Reinterpretation.” European Journal of Turkish Studies 10: unpaginated document. Search in Google Scholar

The Economist. 2005. “Peace be unto you: The Turkish Prime Minister paves the way for a deal with the Kurds.” August 18, 2005. Search in Google Scholar

The Economist. 2012. “Istanbul and Bears.” April 7, 2012. Search in Google Scholar

Today’s Zaman. 2015a.“HDP’s Demirtaş reveals 10 articles for progression of settlement talks.” Today’s Zaman, February 26, 2015. Accessed April 27, 2015. http://www.todayszaman.com/anasayfa_hdps-demirtas-reveals-10-articles-for-progression-of-settlement-talks_373646.html. Search in Google Scholar

Today’s Zaman. 2015b. “Demirtaş says HDP is safety valve of peace process.” Today’s Zaman, April 8 2015. Accessed April 30, 2015. http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/demirtas-says-hdp-is-safety-valve-of-peace-process.aspx?pageID=238&nID=80785&NewsCatID=338. Search in Google Scholar

Toker, H. 2014. “More National Less European? The Comparison of the Last Two General Elections in Turkey.” European Journal of Communication 30 (2):1–21. Search in Google Scholar

Updegraff, R. 2012. “The Kurdish Question.” Journal of Democracy 23 (1):119–28. Search in Google Scholar

Uras, U. July 12, 2014. “Erdogan promises a ‘new Turkey.’” Al Jazeera. Accessed December 5, 2014. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/07/erdogan-promises-new-turkey-20147127316609347.html. Search in Google Scholar

Ülgen, S. 2014. “What next after Turkey’s Local Elections?” Strategic Europe 4 (unpaginated document). Accessed January 20 2015. http://carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/?fa=55242. Search in Google Scholar

Watts, N. F. 2009. “Re-Considering State-Society Dynamics in Turkey’s Kurdish Southeast” European Journal of Turkish Studies 10: unpaginated document. Search in Google Scholar

Yildiz, K. 2012. “Turkey’s Kurdish Conflict: Pathways to Progress.” Insight Turkey 14 (4):151–74. Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2015-8-13
Published in Print: 2015-6-1

©2015 by De Gruyter