You cannot beat fascism at the ballot box - HDP
Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-Chair Serpil Kemalbay told Ahval the arrest of her party’s leaders and members of parliament was an attempt to silence the country’s Kurds and said the sanctions trial underway in New York exposed the corruption at the heart of government. Here is a transcript of the interview.
Let’s start with the party’s nine parliamentarians currently under arrest. These trials are ongoing. What do you think is the real reason for this?
The hostage situation that our party’s co-presidents, parliamentarians and municipal mayors are suffering from is simply a politically motivated act.
The HDP’s strong parliamentary result in the June 7th general election demonstrated the hope for peace in the electorate the party represented and this frightened the prevailing political hierarchy.
The only party during that period which prevented the AKP from forming a single-party government was the HDP.
There were numerous policies undertaken to reduce the HDP’s parliamentary numbers, to bring down the HDP, to prevent the party from making it over the 10 percent threshold.
In fact, the removal of our parliamentary immunities and our party members being taken hostage is part of this broader aim.
This is the type of operation they have employed against those they failed to beat with the ballot box.
Yet, this hasn’t just been limited to hostage taking of popularly elected individuals, there is major violence occurring on the streets. Due to the state of emergency, society is living under very repressive conditions.
When will all of this come to an end? Do you foresee it ending in the near future?
For our elected members to regain their freedom it is entirely dependent on a change in the current political climate.
This will only materialise if the country undertakes democratisation and returns to the peace process.
But, their objective is to have the Kurdish population give up and abandon their demands entirely. This is the aim they are pursuing.
In fact, the reason for stripping our parliamentary immunities was to achieve this end.
Since the appeal to the Constitutional Court was not successful, attention turns to the European Court of Human Rights. Do you expect a positive result from this process?
In Turkey today, there is a government which has entirely moved away from the principle of human rights and the rule of law.
What the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) should normally do is to express its attitude towards this violation of law and to reveal the facts.
We know today there is a spread of authoritarian regimes in the world. In many places, we have seen human rights and democracy suffer from the crisis of neo-liberalism that the world is going through.
We are also witnessing this deterioration in Europe and that it is moving away from its own values. From this point of view, we can see that even in Europe, national interests can take priority above universal values.
We have a Europe that is captive to the politics of refugees.
We therefore think that those institutions are not independent of these governments and trends. But we still expect a decision that will uphold Europe’s values.
If a favourable decision is not handed down and an early election goes ahead in 2019, will the HDP be able to compete? What strategy will you take?
The HDP's strategy is to extend the struggle for democracy and to establish a democratic front. We are faced with a variety of handicaps in relation to this. There are certain political patterns, prejudices that can sometimes be an obstacle to us expanding our democratic front.
For us, the Kurdish issue is at the top of Turkey’s primary problems, without solving that, it is not possible to solve the problem of democracy. (Everything) from the issue of women’s rights to unemployment cannot be solved in this context. What we need to explain is that if one of us is not free, then that none of us will be free of these problems.
We need to approach it from this angle. There is no magic formula. These are all interrelated issues. We can only arrive at a solution by establishing bridges between the people.
Our struggle for democracy can be strengthened with these bridges. Otherwise, if we simply go on thinking that a favourable decision by the ECHR will come or in some way Erdoğan will go or “we will defeat fascism through the ballot box at elections” to change our current situation, is not realistic.
The HDP has been under intense pressure and at the centre of operations against it since June 7th. How long will this situation continue, how long can the HDP resist?
The HDP will resist until it wins. In fact, when these attacks were directed at us, our co-president Selahattin Demirtaş sent a message: We will absolutely win…
We see it as follows; this country will not carry this burden anymore.
This is not something that is exclusive to the HDP. With the current status quo and Turkey’s founding principles, when we look at the demands of the people for democracy in the 21st century in terms of freedom and equality, we don’t live with a government that meet these demands.
The founding principles of the country are being questioned. Since these traditional principles have calcified, they endeavoured to continue with the same system by placing a political Islamic ideology over the top. But this has also collapsed in the last 15 years.
Turkey has a fundamental problem with democracy. The Kurdish issue being at the top, Turkey is now face to face with these problems.
In the lead up to the June 7th elections your slogan was “We will not allow you to become president”. Is this still valid?
When the HDP declared, “we will not allow you to become president” it was in response to the anti-democratic presidential system and single-ruler regime Erdoğan aimed to create.
And now we see how accurate we were.
Because a single-man regime means the silencing of an entire society, no rule of law, the removal of all checks and balances.
There are also discussions of an early election. Do you think there is such a possibility?
There might be an election any moment. There might not be one either
We are always ready for an election. But on the other hand, we also think that Erdoğan will not easily go to an election that he might not win.
You stated one of the reasons that your party was under attack was to keep it below the electoral threshold. At this point, is the HDP below the threshold?
From the figures we have received, the HDP has protected its vote share. The party sits securely above the 10 percent threshold. We can say this is now our solidified share of the vote. This will increase to a higher figure.
We are confident that this ratio will leap to a much higher level if the election is held under a democratic environment.
Turkey’s agenda has been very active…the transfer of finances to a company on the Isle of Man, Reza Zarrab in the United States … what are your thoughts on these matters?
The AKP is suffering a great decay. It's not metal fatigue; it's rather a build-up of methane gas. Pandora's box has been opened and everything is pouring out.
The Zarrab case is illustrating this. You might not recognise the embargo against Iran, but this doesn’t mean you need to take bribes and drown in corruption.
Why have you fallen into such filth?
Erdoğan needs to explain this. Yet, instead of explaining this, they have tried to cover this up with an argument that it is an operation against Turkey.
Through this process, we are confronted with a picture that clearly shows us that they are dragging the country to a great abyss and that they have looted and plundered our resources.
The uncovering of transfers of money to the Isle of Man has also revealed their true character. This needed to have been put on trial when they were exposed in the December 17th to 25th operations. Not having done so, demonstrates that Erdoğan was part of this process.
The AKP, all throughout their years of rule, have committed crimes against humanity.
Now, on top of the crimes against humanity, we can add bribery, theft, corruption and many other crimes. This government must be tried for these crimes when democracy returns to Turkey.