News / Europe

Main Pro-Kurdish Party Also Winner in Turkish Local Elections

Kurdish people dance during the Nowruz celebrations in southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir, March 21, 2014.
Kurdish people dance during the Nowruz celebrations in southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir, March 21, 2014.
Dorian Jones
Turkey's pro-Kurdish BDP party was the other winner in Turkey's local elections, defeating Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling AK Party in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast and and extending its control across virtually the entire region.  The BDP expressed impatience with the government-backed peace process and declared it would take steps for greater autonomy.  
 
Prime Minister Erdogan was not the only one celebrating victory in Turkey’s nationwide local elections on Sunday.  The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, made significant gains throughout most of the country’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, at the expense of the AK Party.

Political scientist Cengiz Aktar of the Istanbul Policy Center says the BDP’s success could have far-reaching consequences.

"This is extremely important. They have extended their power base ... They have overwhelmed even the ruling party.  They have the vast majority of the mayorships [in southeastern Turkey].  They are extending their autonomy, their de facto autonomy, through the local elections," said Aktar.

The BDP is demanding decentralization of power, and its leaders have warned that it will start introducing what it calls “democratic autonomy” if the government does not meet its demands.  The AK Party has ruled out autonomy, but has indicated it may be open to giving the regions greater powers.

Soli Ozel, a political columnist for the Turkish newspaper Haberturk, says what happens in the predominantly Kurdish southeast is important for the whole of the country.
 
"It’s a critical development because we are in dire need of more decentralization of administration in this country.  I hope they do this without charging too hard on the sensitivities of the people in the western part of country," said Ozel.

Analysts point out many Turks remain deeply suspicious of - if not hostile to - granting greater powers to the Kurdish region, fearing it might ultimately lead to the breakup of the country.  The Kurdish rebel group PKK has been fighting the Turkish state for greater minority rights and for many years called for an independent state; however, it has now dropped the demand for independence, calling instead for autonomy.

Two years ago, the government launched talks to end the conflict with imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, but those efforts have stalled for months amid mutual recriminations.  Observers say Prime Minster Erdogan, who is expected to run in this August's presidential elections, might offer concessions to the pro-Kurdish BDP in exchange for its support.

But political scientist Nuray Mert of Istanbul University says it will be a difficult deal to make.

"First of all, it’s a contradiction in terms, giving rights and freedoms for Kurds and curbing rights and freedoms for the rest of the society.  And it will be problematic among Kurds themselves in the near future," said Mert.

Syria is also a potential stumbling block between the BDP and the ruling AK Party.  The BDP strongly supports Syrian Kurds, who have established an autonomous region in Syria - a move strongly condemned by Ankara, which has imposed a blockade on the region.  During the last few days, tensions over a disputed AK Party victory in the mayoral election in the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar have erupted into violence.

Analyst Aktar says how the dispute is handled will be an important test of BDP-government relations.

"One should watch very carefully what’s happening in the Syrian border town of Ceylanpinar just next to the Kurdish town [of] Sere Kaniye in the Kurdish inhabited areas of Syria.  But Kurds are adamant to keep the control of Ceylanpinar, this is very important for them," he said.

The PKK has threatened reprisals against the AK Party for the security crackdown in Ceylanpinar.

Observers say there were really two victors in Turkey’s local elections, and that both parties will feel empowered by their success.  Whether they choose to cooperate or challenge each other’s political mandates is likely to have important consequences for the country in the coming months.

You May Like

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid