It is not unusual to see people in prison running for a seat in Parliament. It happened before. What is different this time is the large number of such people, totaling eight. The CHP boycotted the swearing-in ceremony to show solidarity with the elected deputies from their party who are in prison, Mehmet Haberal and Mustafa Balbay. The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), while facing the same problem, joined the session.
The BDP case is different from that of the CHP because, unlike Haberal and Balbay, Hatip Dicle, a BDP candidate from Diyarbakır, is not even eligible to win a seat in Parliament because of a previous conviction. According to legal experts both inside and outside Parliament, nothing can be done to rid Dicle of his conviction and send him to Parliament.
As expected, the BDP circles immediately began their usual rounds of threats. Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan made even greater threats, calling for a popular uprising and civil war with close to half a million to die in the fighting. The elected BDP deputies remain in Diyarbakır and refuse to come to Parliament.
Each of the three cases is different and presents different types of legal and political problems. But the three opposition parties agree on one thing: The government should solve the problem. They are also pressuring Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to step in. The problem is that they say nothing about how to proceed other than asking the prime minister to perform miracles for them.
The PKK-BDP reaction is not surprising and shows their instrumentalist approach to parliamentary democracy. As a recent report by the prominent Turkish journalist Cengiz Çandar on the PKK and the Kurdish issue shows, the PKK-BDP will not give up armed struggle and will continue to use threats, intimidation and terrorism as a means to make political gains.
But how can that contribute to the process of democratization in Turkey? How can we be convinced that the PKK wants a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue? Every time we face a political problem, the PKK issues threats of attacks and civil war. Can this ever be accepted in any democracy?
With regard to Dicle’s situation, the BDP knew what everyone knew: Dicle was convicted in court for supporting terrorism and if he runs for Parliament, he won’t be eligible. Even though they knew this, they put him on the BDP list. Now they’re asking the government to find a magical formula to get Dicle into Parliament.
It is the same BDP that refused to support the constitutional changes on Sept. 12, 2010, and the judicial reform that was to follow. Now they’re complaining about the inaptitude of the judiciary. The irony for the CHP is that it claims to be a new party under Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. But Haberal and Balbay, both of whom are in prison and thus can’t really fully become deputies, hardly represent the new Turkey. Of course, the CHP officials are entitled to their own political views. But putting Ergenekon suspects on your list and then defying Parliament is hardly a sign of a new political outlook for the CHP. Yes, there is a new Parliament and it will eventually find a way to solve these problems. But the big paradoxes of the opposition parties are hard to miss.