People’s Democratic Party, or HDP, is mainly supported by the Kurdish Voters. Party’s ex-chair Selahattin Demirtaş is currently in jail, and recently its members and politicians are accused of being terrorists by the Turkish government.
From the resolution process up to now, it has been a bumpy ride for HDP in Turkish politics with 6 of their MPs and over 90 of their Mayors having been incarcerated. Despite rising nationalism and a new Ottoman-Turkishness synthesis in power, HDP tries to hold on to politics and have a say in the future of Turkey.
For this local election though HDP, had a different strategy. AKP claims there is a coalition between CHP, İYİ Party, Saadet Partisi and HDP. However, on paper only CHP and İYİ party made a coalition and HDP supports this coalition in some strategic sense. In the eastern cities where the party is stronger, it aims to help AKP-MHP coalition lose. Which basically means supporting the İYİ Parti and CHP candidates.
CHP’s Istanbul Mayoral candidate, Ekrem İmamoğlu can swiftly be supported by HDP’s voter base. He is a friendly figure, who cannot be easily provoked. His rhetoric is inclusive and warm. However, CHP and İyi Party’s common candidate in Ankara, Mansur Yavaş is kind of a different figure. He comes from a nationalist background and his team consists of nationalists, rather than social democrats. Mansur Yavaş even said, he believes HDP voters should be gained back to the society.
I asked Filiz Kerestecioğlu, HDP’s Ankara MP and Çankaya district mayoral candidate, whether HDP voters are still going to vote for Yavaş in the local elections. She answered, HDP supporters will be voting rationally, and despite everything they will be voting for Yavaş. Kerestecioğlu said, HDP voters would vote for CHP and İYİ party’s mayoral candidates but they would turn to HDP lists for the city councils. She outlined having a say in the city councils as the most important thing, because that actually is where the decisions are taken. So, at this point HDP’s strategy is to help the AKP-MHP front lose the main cities and to have the say in the governance of those cities.
This strategy, however, says more about HDP’s long term policies. Sources from the party told me, they are preparing themselves for the middle term. They believe, there will be a post Erdoğan period, naturally, and then a new reconciliatory period will be needed. HDP does not want to be excluded from that, and they want to have a say in the new period. HDP believes, the presidential system has not been working for Turkey. It has been tried but failed. Thus, first thing to be done would be going back to parliamentary system and a period of normalization. Presidency should again be a symbolic bi-partisan position. Opposition parties should start pushing for this, if AKP-MHP coalition loses big cities, HDP believes.
Although opposition parties insist that this is just local elections, everybody also knows in the back of their minds, that this election can be a game changer in a way. And a new era, if it will ever start, might start on April 1st.