The progressive and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the third biggest party in the Turkish parliament, has been forced to contest the upcoming May 14 Turkish general election under the banner of the Green Left Party (Yeşil Sol Parti), one of the constituent parties of the HDP when it was formed in 2012. Green Left spoke to Kenan Bircan, the Sydney representative of the Green Left Party on Tuesday April 25.
Just hours after the interview was completed, news broke that scores of journalists, lawyers, artists and human rights activists were arrested in dawn raids by police as part of an escalating crackdown on the pro-Kurdish opposition ahead of the coming crucial elections.
According to an official statement, 128 people were arrested on Tuesday as part of the operations, which span 20 provinces and are centred on the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakır (Amed).
Mass protests have broken out in response.
The arrests were made under the pretext that these 128 allegedly had connections to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is labeled a terrorist organisation inTurkey.
Bircan started by explaining that Turkey’s problems stem from the oppression, denial and assimilation policies applied against all people of Turkey, all beliefs and all differences in the country — not only those of the Kurds. The HDP is telling this truth, he said, which is why the government has arrested and jailed its leaders and elected representatives and is trying to ban the party and prevent it from running in the election.
“Unfortunately demanding a democracy in Turkey counts as propaganda for a terrorist organisation,” he said.
The YSP is campaigning for a democratic republic in what will be Turkey’s second century since its founding in 1923.
“The first thing to do is to change the Constitution, which was a military coup constitution made in 1982,” Bircan said.
But the precondition for achieving a democratic republic, he explained, “is to get rid of the AKP-MHP fascist government and [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s one-man regime”. If the regime can be defeated, and democracy achieved, “then we can all sit down and resolve our problems”.
In regard to attempts by the regime to prevent the YSP from campaigning, Bircan said: “For any party coming from our tradition it’s always hard to have a campaign. In 2015, 2018, bombs exploded while [HDP] were campaigning ... In the November 1  elections … they actually bombed our meetings.”
The AKP government came under heavy criticism, not just from opposition forces, following the catastrophic earthquake, Bircan told GL.
“The reason we lost so many lives in this earthquake is that the AKP regime, which has been governing for the past 23 years is not giving any value to human life. This regime has not learned any lessons from previous earthquakes and not taken any measures to prevent [loss of life].”
Bircan said that rather than launch a concerted rescue effort in the quake-affected areas, people were left to freeze to death under the rubble in the harsh winter conditions.
“The regime even prevented institutions especially the HDP from delivering search and rescue teams and humanitarian aid to the region.”
The regime’s response to the earthquake has angered people all over the country, he said. “I think this reaction against the irresponsible and helpless attitude of the government will also be reflected in the elections. The decline in the AKP’s vote after the earthquake was actually reflected in the election polls.”
One way the AKP-MHP regime hopes to draw votes is by ramping up military operations against Kurdish-held areas in Northern Syria (Rojava) and Iraq, in order to tap into nationalist sentiment. “This has been happening in almost every election,” Bircan said.
“In this election, [Erdogan] even started preparation to launch an operation into Rojava, but luckily … he didn’t get the approval of the United States and Russia, so he stopped there.
“Of course there is a section of Turkey that feeds on such war provocations and these sections are already voting for AKP-MHP anyway … but I don’t think other sections will vote for his party because I think by now the rest of Turkey thinks it is just propaganda for his election campaign.”
Bircan said the YSP will be campaigning to win votes from the Turkish diaspora in Australia. In the previous election, the HDP won 16.3% of the vote here. “In this election we are expecting around 55,000 people [who are] Turkish citizens eligible to vote [in Australia].
“In this election the interests are greater, so we’re expecting a higher turnout [than 2018] and we are aiming to exceed 20% of the vote. If we get 4000 votes across Australia, we will reach 20%.”
The threshold parties must reach to gain seats in the Turkish Congress was reduced last April from 10% to 7%.