A coalition for a solution

Tayyip Erdoğan'ın davası bir kişinin değil AK Parti'nin davasıdır. Bu yüzden hedefte olan yalnız başına Erdoğan değil, o davanın tüm sahipleridir, milletin kendisidir, Abdullah Gül'dür, Ahmet Davutoğlu'dur, bütün AK Partililerdir..

Vahap Coşkun

 

The Turkish original of this article was published as 'Çözüm koalisyonu' on 15th June 2015.

 

 

After more than two years, on 28th February 2015 there took place an immensely significant development in the Solution Process. Government representatives and the HDP’s İmralı Delegation held a joint press conference in the Dolmabahçe Palace. A 10-point mutual agreement was made public, with both sides promising to do whatever it took to abide by it in order to accelerate the entire process.   

 

This was the peak point of the Solution Process. The venue, the language, the joint picture that they posed for all had great symbolic value. A new stage had been reached, putting us at the doorstep of final, conclusive negotiations.

 

How the game plan collapsed

 

It is my impression that in arranging this meeting, the government had a certain game plan in mind. Their first step in the wake of the meeting was likely to be going public with the Monitoring Committee, after which that body would begin work and also meet and talk with Öcalan in that context. Subsequently, Öcalan was going to call on the PKK to hold a disarmament congress. The PKK would duly convene that congress, and in line with Öcalan’s request announce to the whole world that it was “abandoning its armed struggle against Turkey.” The government would thereby have brought the process to its concluding stage, and would be able to contest the elections as a government that had pronounced an end to a conflict that had been raging for thirty years. It was going to be able to ask for the people’s votes as “a peace-making government.”     

 

It was precisely at this point, however, that President Erdoğan entered the fray. It is possible that the various public opinion surveys which Erdoğan had requested indicated that the AKP was losing some nationalist votes which were going to the MHP. He then comprehensively misread this trend; attributing it to the Solution Process, he thought that he might stop the slide by adopting an anti-solution discourse. First, he claimed not to have known about the Dolmabahçe meeting (but as Government Spokesperson Arınç noted,  it was unthinkable for the president not to have been informed in this regard). He went on to say that he was opposed to the Dolmabahçe meeting in terms of both image and content. On the grounds that it would further legitimate the PKK, he declared that he would not approve of any Monitoring Committee. He rejected the very existence of the Kurdish question. “There is neither a [negotiating] table, nor a party [to negotiate with], nor any agreement,” he said, thereby virtually negating all the gains and achievements of the entire Solution Process.   

 

Not satisfied with all this, Erdoğan also embarked upon an ultra-nationalistic discourse. He started demonizing the HDP and the PKK in a language which we had come to regard as long discarded. As the HDP came to organize its campaign entirely against him, President Erdoğan reacted for his part by escalating his own attacks with each passing day. These organizations had neither faith nor belief, he asserted. He reverted to claims of Zoroastrianism yet again. When he met with protests, as at Iğdır, he let loose with talk that was injurious to all Kurds. At every opportunity, he kept insisting that he was the architect and initiator of the Solution Process, though in word and manner it was he who was now poisoning that process.       

 

The government’s responsibility

 

Thus it was that the government’s original game plan came to nought. The government could have pursued its own political line independently of the president in order to keep supporting the Solution Process. And initially, there were some signs to that effect. Arınç, for example, had stated that despite the president’s disapproval, responsibility for the Solution Process rested with the government, and that the government looked favorably on the creation of a Monitoring Committee. But this mood did not last. The government estimated that continuing to be at odds with the president was likely to prove more damaging. Hence it backed down from open confrontation with the president, and refrained from opposing his campaign to torpedo the Solution Process. On the contrary, some government members were quick to fall in line with with the president by adopting a hard line violating the spirit of the process. In the end, rather than campaigning on the basis of advancing the process, the government entered the elections by halting and freezing the process.          

 

It was obvious that there would be a price to pay for such opposition to the Solution Process. Thus in an article that I wrote shortly before the elections, I noted that Erdoğan’s language was discrediting the AKP in the eyes of Kurdish voters, and that if the AKP’s regional vote were to decline compared with previous elections, it would be Erdoğan’s campaign that would be primarily responsible (Seçimler ve siyasî rüşt [The elections and coming of political age], Serbestiyet, 1st June 2015). When the balloting came to an end, it turned out that the fall in AKP votes was far greater than I had envisaged. The AKP went into a regional nose dive, surrendering all superiority to the HDP.   

 

The mistake and the self-criticism

 

Over all this the AKP is now engaged in taking stock. Beşir Atalay, who has invested a lot of time and effort in the process, including assuming its coordinatorship, recently appeared on Channel 7’s Başkent Kulisi [Ankara Backstage] program to admit that his party had pursued a mistaken policy vis-à-vis the Solution Process during the election campaign. He pointed to braking the process as a leading factor in losing votes in the East and Southeast: “Frankly, when everything had been going according to plan, at a point where we seemed to be arriving at the last steps for disarmament, for the Solution Process to seem to be halted, or to be postponed to the aftermath of the elections, has been a factor [in this loss of votes.]”

 

According to Atalay, the ultimate objective of the process was to achieve a farewell to arms and a safe return home. Especially when the government was so close to its objective, it was a mistake for it to use the elections as a pretext for halting the process. Atalay is being self-critical on this point.  

 

Finding a way out

 

This self-criticism also points to the road the AKP has to pursue in order to recover from its fall. The AKP has to focus on deepening the Solution Process and carrying it through to its expected conclusion within an overall vision of democratization. It has to make this its policy cornerstone, and also place it at the center of its coalition negotiations. Instead of hesitating, it should forcefully accelerate the process. For whenever it has really committed to the process, the winners have been both the country as a whole and the AKP.

 

Inevitably, a political line axed on the Solution Process would also enable the AKP’s relations with the HDP as its interlocutor to be also put back on track. Significantly, Muzaffer Ayata, a member of the top PKK leadership, has pointed to the possibility of an AKP – HDP coalition based on progressive democratization and the Solution Process. In a statement to the Fırat News Agency [ANF], Ayata regards it as plausible, given the existing circumstances, for the AKP and the MHP to forge a coalition among themselves. For these two parties are close to  each other in terms of their outlook and their mass base. But the problem here is the Solution Process. The AKP wants to turn the process to its own benefit to escape being obliterated [says Ayata], while the MHP is wholly opposed to the process. This alliance can be created only if they can reach a compromise over the Solution Process.     

 

Ayata goes on to argue that while currently it is extremely difficult for the AKP and the HDP to come together in a coalition, neither is it entirely impossible: “If the AKP commits itself to the peace process, if it desires to stay with it as a joint project, if on this basis it comes up with a project ranging from constitutional change to electoral reform and the elimination of the institutional legacy of the 12 September régime, it might be possible to discuss an HDP – AKP coalition. Or else the HDP might support an AKP minority government from the outside.”  

 

Categorical rejection versus democratic compromise

 

There are some groups or sections of society who are allied with the HDP, and who would like to see the HDP subscribe to a mission limited to stopping the AKP and Erdoğan. They are likely to throw all their weight behind dissuading the HDP from developing this sort of cooperation with the AKP. For the HDP is already being subjected to multiple pressures of this sort. Any party that enters into a coalition with the AKP is going to share in all the AKP’s various sins, some columnists and ngo’s proclaim. They keep warning the HDP “never ever to form a coalition with the AKP.” 

 

In his statement, Ayata also indicates the potential response to such impending critiques of the HDP. The HDP, he says, promised that it would not be lending its votes to the AKP [for the AKP to win an absolute majority]. It succeeded [in passing the 10 percent threshold] and it kept its promise. It brought the AKP down from power, and put an end to Erdoğan’s dreams of a presidential system. Baseless claims to the effect that the HDP and the AKP had reached a secret agreement to engage in match-fixing were shown to hold no water. “Now there are two parties that stand on equal terms. The AKP government has been brought down, and an end has been put Erdoğan’s dreams of a presidential system. On this point the HDP has been successful. It is now possible for agreements and compromises to be forged on the basis of the peace, democracy, and the expansion of rights and liberties that are in any case demanded by the HDP’s popular support.”    

 

This is good and correct politics. You present your position on a certain question, and you keep the door open to negotiation or compromise. If you can arrive at common ground with somebody, you proceed on that basis.

 

It was wrong for the HDP to announce immediately after the elections that it would absolutely not be supporting the AKP, neither from the inside nor the outside. Clearly, the HDP intended thereby to reassure its anti-Erdoğan allies. But arguably, the HDP’s reason of existence in politics should not be to offer comfort and consolation to those obsessed with Erdoğan and the AKP. Facing the HDP are other tasks, such as promoting the Solution Process and ensuring that steps are taken to strengthen democracy. Categorically rejecting the AKP cannot possibly contribute to these objectives. What behooves the HDP is to enter into coalition talks, to prepare its own platform, to formulate a program aiming at further democratization and advancing the Solution Process. And if it should come to share this program with the AKP, it should not refrain from cooperation but opt to continue joint progress. That sort of coalition would perform as a “solution government” and significantly help to normalize the entire country.

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