Celebrations did not last long on election night in Diyarbakır, the biggest city in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast, when it became clear the pro-Kurdish opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP) had passed the 10-percent vote threshold to take up seats in parliament.
It also became apparent that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had been re-elected and that his Justice and Development Party (AKP) and their ultra Turkish Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) allies would have majority in parliament. The city lapsed into silence. “Our joy felt like a knot in our stomach,” said people I met.
I do not intend to make a detailed analysis of the election results in this article. However, I can say that most of us failed in our predictions of the results in Kurdish populated cities. The overwhelming silence in the southeast before the elections, the people’s determination and the destruction witnessed in Kurdish cities in the last three years made us think that the AKP would face a significant drop in its support.
But that did not happen. In Diyarbakır, the AKP got the 21 percent of the vote (it was 21,4 percent in November 2015 elections), while the HDP got 66 percent (72.8 in November 2015).
In Mardin, a province to the south, the HDP received 59.3 percent (68.4 percent in November 2015), while the AKP got 30.4 percent (28.5 percent in November 2015). In Cizre, a district east of Mardin, the HDP got 82.13 percent (93.2 percent in November 2015) and the AKP got 9.96 percent (4.9 in November 2015). There were similar drops in HDP support in other cities as well.
It is apparent that the HDP lost votes in the southeast, though not significantly. Like other political parties, the HDP should also analyse those results.
There are many factors that contributed to this result. The environment of fear and repression in the region, electoral fraud, the Supreme Electoral Council’s decision to move ballot boxes in some places, the security personnel and appointed mayors amassed in the region, the obstruction of the HDP’s election campaign, the fact that many of the HDP senior members are either in prison or outside Turkey. Yet, it seems like the Kurdish movement’s lack of self-criticism after the urban warfare that broke out in late 2015 also had an impact on the results.
What concerns me most is the radical Turkish nationalist bloc, which was further strengthened after this election. The MHP and the nationalist Good Party together got 22 percent of the vote. If you add the AKP votes, the gravity of the situation and the difficult times ahead become obvious.
The election results reveal the problems we will face in the future. From now on, we have to continue our struggle in a more planned, more thoughtful way, by learning lessons from our mistakes and working much harder. Labelling those who voted for the AKP and Erdoğan as enemies, stupid or ignorant people is not only wrong, but also a disturbing and arrogant approach.
Moreover, nothing can be gained from it. What is more important is to understand why such a high number of people voted for the AKP and Erdoğan, despite this environment of fear and repression, economic downturn, the fact that many have lost their jobs or been put into prison unlawfully. I think all parties should start examining their own mistakes.
We all have learnt a lot during this period. Thousand of people worked relentlessly till the last day, in every street, in every neighbourhood. Hundreds of thousands worked as polling clerks or observers on election day and protected the ballot boxes.
A few days before the election, Ergun Babahan wrote an article entitled “can fascism be beaten at the ballot box?” and emphasised that fascism in Turkey has tried to expand and create a generation of “new women” and “new men”.
While I was reading Babahan’s article, I kept on thinking what alternatives do we have against this fascism?
Now I believe it is time to reflect and focus on those alternatives. Though the results of the election have curbed our hopes, we also witnessed many things during the election period that instilled us with hope.
Hundreds of thousands working together, the attempts of the HDP and secularist main opposition Republican People’s Party voters to understand and to protect each other, their joint effort to strengthen their solidarity; they were beautiful and gave us hope.
We have learnt to hold on to each other. I do not know whether this will continue or not. Let us hope it will.
We have been passing through a period of explicit and implicit violence. Probably this violence will expand. Though the majority in Turkey supports this violence, this does not change the fact that millions object to it.
Let us keep voicing our persistent objections.
Each of our objections will create a crack in this fascism. Those cracks will in time get wider, will unite with each other, and will break this system. The issue at hand is not elections and the struggle for the ballot boxes anymore.
It is the struggle for freedoms, justice, equality, and humanity. And we cannot accept a defeat in this road.
The real defeat is submission to bullies!
Let us keep widening the cracks.