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 Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the US are seeing gas prices dip below $3 a gallon More

Afghan Women's Soccer Team Building for the Future

A four-team female league was recently set up in Kabul; It will help identify players for the national team More

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

Pyongyang threatens nuclear test as joint US, S. Korean exercises show forces’ capabilities More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid