Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's decision to call an early general election on June 24 — a year and a half before it was due — is a sign of weakness and desperation, according to opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP Lezgin Botan.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) are losing popular support because of their anti-democratic and pro-war domestic and regional policies and because the economy is a mess. The official unemployment rate is nearly 11% and one in five young people are without work.
“Economic and political problems have come to the point of causing social explosion. Erdogan is no longer able to rule the country,” Botan told Green Left Weekly.
“Erdogan came to power promising democracy and economic welfare but he did not keep this promise. He brought welfare to himself and his followers only. Today, unemployment is very high in Turkey. The Turkish lira is one of the fastest-falling currencies in the world. Diesel and gasoline are very expensive and inflation is high.
“Recently, the media reported that some desperate people set themselves on fire because of the terrible economic conditions.”
State of emergency
“This racist and religious AKP-MHP coalition's decision to go for an early election shows that its policies are bankrupt. But they hope to win elections which are to be held under unfair and unequal conditions in the state of emergency that has been enforced since 2016. That's why they made the snap election decision suddenly.”
Opposition leaders and activists, students and journalists have been arrested for criticising the government — sometimes even for expressing the slightest criticism on social media. Special powers under the state of emergency are used to silence opposition.
Erdogan is trying to paint his brutal military attack on Afrin in northern Syria – which was part of the area liberated by Kurdish-led revolutionary forces — as a victory. But this was a false victory, according to Boltan.
“There is a ongoing war against the Kurds in Turkish Kurdistan and Iraqi Kurdistan since 1984. Erdogan is just continuing this war with his attack on Afrin.
“Erdogan occupied Afrin with the direct support of Russia. NATO also tolerated it. Countries such as Germany and the Netherlands gave military and technical support.
“The occupation of Afrin is not a victory for Erdogan because everyone in Turkey knows that the reason of the invasion of Afrin is elections.
“The AKP will get a Kurdish slap in the elections,” Botan added.
HDP ready for elections
In the last elections (in 2015), the progressive HDP won 13.12% of the vote, and became the third largest parliamentary group. Since then, the Erdogan regime has become increasingly fascistic, the HDP has been the only strong voice of opposition in parliament.
The HDP has faced sustained attack from the Erdogan regime. Eleven HDP MPs have been removed from their seats and 11 have been arrested so far.
“HDP municipalities were dismissed and replaced by Erdogan's administrators. HDP co-mayors and our members of parliament were arrested. About ten thousand of our party's activists have been arrested over the last four years," said Botan.
“However, they have failed to liquidate the HDP. This was clear at our congress, in February, in which 30,000 people participated.
“The HDP never compromised its principles. That's why the people did not give up on the HDP.
'The attacks on the HDP made our members band together more strongly.
“However, the silencing of independent newspapers and TV and a serious black propaganda against the HDP has had an effect on people in the west of the country.
“But, despite all this pressure, everyone saw that HDP is a powerful party. Today, HDP is the party that can end Erdogan's one-man regime. Our struggle for peace and democracy in parliament and outside will continue.”