Amid talks in the main opposition block to come up with a candidate to challenge President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the 2023 Turkish elections, another election alliance was announced on September 24 in İstanbul around the Kurdish-problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). It is called the “Labor and Freedom Alliance, (EÖİ).
The left-wing parties that allied with the HDP included the Turkish Workers’ Party (TİP) with 4 seats in the Parliament and parties with no seats in the Parliament such as the Turkish Communist Party (TKP), the Labor Party (EMEP), the Left-Green Party and several socialist platforms. The pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP) with one seat in the parliament and regarded as being a reserve party if HDP loses the closure case in the Constitutional Court is also a part of the new Alliance.
A delicate balance
It is not clear whether the new Alliance will come up with a candidate for the presidency in the next elections. As the nucleus of the Alliance, HDP has the third biggest group in the parliament, the Turkish Grand National Assembly of the Meclis with 56 seats has around 11 percent voter support in recent polls, making the Alliance a key player in the race for power.
According to recent polls, neither the government front, led by Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) with its ally the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) nor the six-party opposition platform led by the center-left Republican People’s Party (CHP) and its ally, the center-right Good Party (İYİ) can reach the 50 percent+1 votes necessary to win the presidency in the first-round of 2023 elections. That outlook can alter if the HDP-led alliance supports one of the fronts.
May have a key role to play
HDP does not represent all the Kurdish votes. Up until 2019 local elections, traditional and religious Kurdish votes, almost as much as the HDP grassroots were used for the AKP.
Nowadays there is an erosion in the vote base of the AKP, mainly because of two reasons. The first is the economic crisis and the second is the Kurdish-sceptic stance and rhetoric of the MHP. For example, Ali Babacan, Erdoğan’s former economy captain now leading the six-party-platform member DEVA party had a successful rally on September 25 in the Southeastern town of Siirt, known to be a stronghold of the AKP.
HDP co-chair Mithat Sancar has already said that they could support the six-party platform depending on the name and principles of their joint candidate. HDP’s imprisoned former co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş recently said that they appreciate the stance of the CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. But there is no consensus on Kılıçdaroğlu or any other name in the six-party platform yet. HDP also hinted that they may not support the İYİ leader Meral Akşener and the CHP Mayor of Ankara, Mansur Yavaş because of their nationalist backgrounds.
Stress on Kurdish issue
The HDP-led “Labor and Freedom Alliance” gave particular importance to an unarmed solution to the Kurdish problem. There is a hidden criticism of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) four decades-long armed campaign against the successive Turkish governments in which more than 50 thousand people were killed so far. But HDP’s main criticism is of the Turkish security forces. And the HDP is frequently criticized by other mainstream parties for not openly condemning the acts of terror conducted by the PKK.
Yet, the priority of the new alliance according to their declaration is a just economic system for the good of the people; the crisis has altered the priorities of all in Turkey. It is interesting that easy and cheap access to the internet is counted among social rights like electricity, water, and heating. The second item on the declaration is a properly working multi-party democracy. The new alliance is strongly secular. The Kurdish issue comes in the third rank.
Murat Sabuncu, a political commentator for the new-site T24 wrote that such a ranking showed the “democracy and class-oriented” basis of the alliance rather than ethnicity.
In any case, the emergence of this new alliance may be bad news for Erdoğan, depending on the candidate of the opposition front.