BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has embarked on a risky and very bloody gambit to arrange for his Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi (Justice and Development Party) to regain its parliamentary majority so he can continue his march to autocracy as a latter-day Sultan.
He is not the first politician in history to go to war for partisan purposes, but given today’s world and the various unsavory tools available to such beleaguered and conscienceless “leaders,” it is a bit surprising that he just didn’t look elsewhere for ideas and advice.
The punditocracy in Turkey seems convinced, understandably so, that Erdoğan is making a play for additional chauvinist, anti-Kurdish, votes that in the June 7 election went to two other parties.
I suggest his ploy is different. He is not trying so much to GAIN votes (which would be difficult to achieve given the people’s current mindsets) as he is trying to REDUCE other parties votes. Specifically, he wants the Halklarin Demokratik Partisi (Peoples’ Democratic Party) to lose enough votes so it does not clear the minimum 10% of the popular vote required to be seated in the Büyük Millet Meclisi (Grand National Assembly, Turkey’s parliament).
So, Erdoğan starts a war against the Kurds, not to gain votes, not even to create enough instability to call off the November 1 snap elections and allow him to impose martial law or some other similar arrangement whereby he could bypass parliament and rule by presidential decree (as some in Turkey suspect), but rather to create conditions in the heavily Kurdish-populated areas that significantly reduce voter turnout. These are the votes that got the primarily Kurdish-and-other-minority-representing HDP into parliament.
But Erdoğan’s electoral perfidy need not have been so bloody and destabilizing of his presumably beloved country. All he would have had to do is consult with some of the hacks he’s hired in the U.S. about how voter suppression is done, particularly in Republican-dominated states. The use of wedge issues to disgust voters and drive them away from the ballot box is another technique in which American training for Turkish political operatives could have been provided.
An easy solution to Erdoğan’s problem might well have been a draconian voter-identification law such as those implemented in some U.S. jurisdictions. It would not surprise me if many Kurds in remote rural areas lacked some form of paperwork which could be made a “requirement” to be allowed to vote. Poof! Countless HDP voters would effectively become disenfranchised. And, in the interest of not alienating Democrats, Erdoğan could also have consulted with some elements of that party. I know of one assembly district in California whose dominant Democratic clique has for about a sixth of a century used both voter suppression and disgust to retain its hold on power.
All Erdoğan has to achieve is a reduction of HDP votes by less than 25% that party got, which is only a little more than 3% of the overall voter turnout. This is based on the June 7 election, when 46.2 million people voted.
It may be too late now, as Turkey spirals towards civil war, but next time, save yourself a lot grief, Mr. Erdoğan, consult some of the Diaspora Armenians you so love to demonize. We’d be happy to share the political experience gained in various countries and their myriad systems with you. Wouldn’t we, dear readers?