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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid