The ECHR must choose between complicity and law - HDP spokesman

Ayhan Bilgen, a spokesman for the Kurdish-majority Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), answered Ahval's questions about the prosecution of his party’s detained MPs, the upcoming party congress, and the hottest issues in Turkish politics.


The Turkish constitutional court turned down the HDP’s appeal against the decision to detain HDP deputies last year. How do you see the court's decision? Did you expect this ruling?

This decision, a year later, is not just a declaration that deputies can be kept in prison during their trials, but also shows that there is no point in appealing to the constitutional court in Turkey anymore.

A picture has emerged in which the constitutional court has become anomalous and diametrically opposed to its founding aim and duties in the sense of protecting the rights and freedoms in the constitution and protecting society over issues where it is at odds with the state.


What does this decision mean as a legal precedent?

What this means is that the constitutional court is apparently throwing the towel and saying, "We cannot do anything about this."

The court, in its full decision, uses a tweet from (PKK co-founder) Murat Karayılan to justify its decision. If the constitutional court uses a tweet as a legal reference, as a legitimate argument if you will, this proves how unlawful the whole process is.


You have been appealing to the court for a year, and now it has turned down your appeal. What will happen to the detained representatives?

We will keep appealing against this decision in the courts. At this point, it seems like the judicial system has become a tool of the government. But we will continue our legal battle.

However, we have been confronted with a clear picture of where the judiciary now stands.


Turkey needs to submit a written defence to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) about the Nov. 24 HDP detainees. Do you expect ECHR to rule in your favour?

The constitutional court has claimed that "domestic legal options have not been exhausted", but in fact, the constitutional court decision has confirmed that all domestic legal options are indeed exhausted.

Therefore, after this decision and justification, the ECHR now faces a predicament.

The ECHR will either submit to this atmosphere and become accomplices to this process, or they will take a position and call out the Turkish judiciary.

The ECHR is a part of the Turkish judiciary according to the 90th article of the Turkish Constitution. The constitution states that both international agreements that Turkey is a party to and human rights agreements supersede domestic law.

HDP Sözcüsü Ayhan Bilgen

You will likely hold your party convention in January, while your co-chair, Selahattin Demirtaş, some of your deputies and thousands of party members and administrators are under arrest. Is there a possibility of postponement?

We have not decided on the exact day of our convention yet. Party officials will make the final decision. There are some advantages to holding the assembly sooner than later. Party officials will have to take the possibility of a snap election into consideration as well.


We have heard that Demirtaş had offered to resign as the co-chair of the party. Is there any possibility of a new co-chair?

We will conduct a congressional debate in the strategy committee that we established [on the issue]. Of course, that would not be a binding decision. It is more about creating a roadmap.

Our priority is our policies, not the person implementing them. We must evaluate what kind of a process Turkey is going through and what sort of HDP will be most effective under those conditions.

So, at this point, we are not focusing on names. Of course, at one point we will have to [start discussing names]. This is a very sensitive process, and everyone within the party is committed to doing their part.


There are quite a few hot topics in Turkish politics nowadays. Now, there is an 'alliance debate’ going on. There is also speculation about a snap election. Do you think there is the possibility of a snap election?

There are signals that elections might be held before 2019. Financial and political instabilities also signal that Turkey cannot wait until 2019 for a vote.

But we do not know how the elections will be held; we might do local and national together, or we might have one vote before the other. But from mid-2018 on, we will be watching for the possibility of a snap election.

Some media reports indicate that the MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) and AKP (Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party) might form a possible alliance.

So, we must adapt to this reality. The MHP has for some time ceased to be an opposition party, and has de facto become part of AKP. Thus, the question is what the opposition parties will do? We must look at public opinion and figure out what kind of a Turkey the public want to live in.

That is the only way we can offer a meaningful and robust opposition. Because if we cannot do this, we will lose our chances of living in a more democratic Turkey.

The process we are in, developments in the Middle East, Turkish foreign policy, international relations with Western countries, tensions with the U.S., the de rigueur tactical meetings with Iran and Russia: all these things indicate that Turkey is being pushed into a corner, both inside the country and outside.

Such processes require bold politics.

Therefore, the CHP needs to act with courage and determination if they are cognizant of the seriousness of the situation.

The HDP too will determine its own political roadmap.


About MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli's mention of election thresholds ... Some claim that this was a message to AKP. You were at the limit of 10 percent at the Nov. 1 elections. What does your internal polling show? Do you have a threshold problem?

I think the MHP's message to AKP was something like this; make the regulatory changes relating to elections soon, and make it conducive to electoral alliances.

But I think the real issue here is this: what is the goal of politics and what are these political parties fighting for?

What are they offering in order to solve this country's problems? Therefore, in Turkey, there will be political polarization in the upcoming days.

The media embargo is making it harder to get this message out but we, as HDP, do not have a threshold problem. We are still very active in the field and we are very connected to our voters.


After you were released from detention, you said: "the AKP or Erdoğan will carry out some manoeuvres." As a matter of fact, Erdogan's newly discovered passion for Ataturk appears to have been a manoeuvre. Do you expect other plans? What are we up against?

It is quite unpredictable. There is, of course, a form of desperation, concern about consolidating his alliances. There is a fear factor (behind his strategies) as well, which might lead to circular moves without any coherence or continuity.

We as a party want a more democratic Turkey. But [it must be recognized that] Turkey is facing a turbulent period.

In this sense, the danger is not Erdoğan personally, but those who stand beside him. I believe those who ignore their responsibilities are also responsible for Turkey's woes.

We must act, and we must move fast to save Turkey from this turmoil. Pointing fingers does not help anyone.

Ayhan Bilgen

There is a severe crisis going on between the U.S. and Turkey over the Reza Zarrab case. The State Department issued two diplomatic notes to the U.S. Looking at the proceedings, what do you think the future of U.S.–Turkey relations will be?

If our government gave them two diplomatic notes in three days, considering the long tradition of Turkish–American relations, this is apparently more than mere concern about Zarrab's health condition.

The role he will play during these trials are obviously alarming and scaring some in Ankara.

There are examples of countries that have lost their social legitimacy and international support in the world.

The solution to this is turning over a new leaf. Going to Russia once a week to make tactical moves does not help the situation.

Therefore, if there is a solution, it is to create an understanding among different groups within society, trying to find a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue, stopping arbitrary abuses of emergency powers...

Otherwise, if you interpret every situation as an attack on yourself, you will trigger a break-up (with the West).