Not unlikely at all: CHP's ‘modernists' may stage an uprising

Sırrı Süreyya Önder, a Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputy — the political wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), was clear in his statement that a final PKK declaration on withdrawal is impending.

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Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, prime minister of Turkey, also maintained his clarity on drafting a new constitution, telling a large group of ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputies from the western regions some days ago that a referendum on it is irreversible.

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Both are serious statements, telling everyone with a grain of doubt that a renewed determination, in Ankara and out there among the Kurds and those who are tired of violence and the “half-pregnancy” that describes the current state of democratization in Turkey, is solid.

The social ground seems fertile for delivery, as opinion polls show. Over 90 percent of Kurds and over 55 percent of Turks want progress on both an end to the language of weapons and on major political reform.

At this stage, Kurds and Turks have their own, different questions. Kurds need not be persuaded anymore than they expect apparently that the farewell to armed struggle be awarded by long overdue reforms on individual and collective rights. They have doubts focused on whether or not Ankara will deceive them once more.

The majority of Turks need stronger persuasion. Surely many of them would be happy if the whole process would end altogether with the disarmament of the PKK. So they need to be calmed down and reassured that a new constitution is the only guarantee to prevent Turkey from being dismantled, mutilated and abused.

Yet the side effects of the accelerated double processes are even more interesting. The political ground seems to offer brand new opportunities.

The BDP, without a doubt, stands before a historic opportunity. If the withdrawal stage succeeds without big “accidents,” it expects a big role both in reforms and the “normalization” of Kurdish politics.

The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), at the extreme right, arguably the most consistent political player of all, is now busy mobilizing frustrated crowds against a solution on PKK warfare and what it sees as a “sell-out” new constitution. The latest MHP demonstrations in İzmir, as well as the “verbal raids” of its thuggish supporters against the “wise people” meetings, show a large accumulation around the idea of a “sell-out” new constitution. Not only has it started a loosely arranged “joint action” with the tiny, militarist Workers’ Party (İP), but it also, as the polls show, pulls in some voters from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) — the Kemalist main opposition.

In the midst of the reshuffling of the cards, it is the CHP which is now being torn apart. Although the party’s main axis consists of a die-hard Kemalist core, there is also a tiny, but actually larger-than-life flank of social-democrats which has correctly read the seriousness of whether things are really moving ahead in these critical days.

Impatient, they have raised their voices as of late; they want the CHP to choose a clear side and support the peace process. But their efforts have caused an even more powerful backlash within.

As a result, one Kurdish deputy, Salih Fırat, resigned. A key figure of the “reformists,” Gülseren Onanç, was forced to resign as deputy chairwoman of the party. Sezgin Tanrıkulu, another Kurdish deputy and a human rights activist, is now on the firing line because he constantly calls for a major change in the CHP’s policies. The party is in turmoil.

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Given the delicate arithmetic in the 550-seat Parliament, the AKP needs five more votes to pass a draft constitution to national referendum. The BDP may or may not provide the number needed but, as the developing story goes, another question is whether or not the CHP’s “modernists” — around 15-20 deputies – will, at a critical stage, decide to cop out, leave the party and join the efforts of the new political architecture taking place?

This is an option that is slowly but seriously taking shape. I am sure I will have reasons to return to this “larger-than-life” subject, soon.

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