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 Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.