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June 07, 2012, Thursday

CHP’s ‘Kurdish initiative’

At a time when politics has entered a tense phase due to the Uludere tragedy -- in which 34 civilians were mistaken for terrorists and killed by military airstrikes in Şırnak’s Uludere district due to false intelligence -- as well as developments in Syria and the escalating terror attacks, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has made a new proposal to parliamentary parties, including the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party).

 Briefly, this proposal advocates a national consensus among political parties for the settlement of the Kurdish issue through political means under the Parliament. If parties agree to be part of this consensus, the content will be negotiated and a board will be established to focus on the resolution.

It is certainly a very significant first step toward dialogue and negotiations for the resolution of the Kurdish issue.

The government and the main opposition party collectively represent 75 percent of the electorate. Even if the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) insists on maintaining its traditional approach to the issue -- as it seems they will -- there is no reason why a political initiative that represents 75 percent of the electorate should fail, particularly with the participation of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).

But it is no use discussing whether the desired result can be achieved despite the opposition of the MHP. This is because, I believe, the MHP’s “official policies” are now far from satisfying the idealist (ülkücü) or nationalist community. Perception of the Kurdish issue by Islamic groups has changed, but the nationalist groups’ perception has changed as well. Only MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli remains unchanged.

Most people would tacitly acknowledge that significant steps were taken toward resolution during the initiative launched by the AK Party three years ago, but it must be added, “There is nothing wrong with the initiative, but to what extent is the AK Party sincere about it?”

Now it is our turn to ask: Why did the CHP oppose the initiative process that started in 2009? If it had lent support to this process the Kurdish issue would be at a different stage today, wouldn’t it? Can we assume that the CHP, a party that fought hard to undermine the initiative, has eventually realized that this policy is too costly to the country and decided to backpedal? Did the CHP share its reasons for this unexpected policy change with the party’s organs and voter base? Did it convince them of the party’s new policy? As the CHP has tended to lend full support to the BDP’s uncompromising attitude at all times, do you think the CHP has left the BDP in confusion with its unexpected change of attitude?

We could continue to list such questions. The potential resolution is very unlikely to succeed without the CHP learning its lesson from the bad policies of the past, but we can hardly assert that the CHP has confronted its erroneous policies regarding the initiative.

For a long time it has been advertising its forthcoming Kurdish report, but this report has never materialized.

If the CHP develops certain proposals for potential solutions to the Kurdish issue it is the duty of everyone in favor of resolution to attach importance and lend support to it. But we should also ask the following question: What has changed for the CHP? What has the CHP done so far to change the Kemalist perceptions and attitudes that blocked the resolution of the Kurdish issue with policies of denial and negation? Further, how is the Kurdish issue perceived and described in the relationship the CHP has with its own voter base? The AK Party and Islamic groups have confronted a serious obstacle in the Kurdish issue, but where does Kılıçdaroğlu’s party stand with respect to this confrontation?

Over the past few years both the state and society have started to view the Kurdish issue differently. The era of complete denial has been left behind. During the three years following the introduction of the initiative Turkey has seen heated debates, which have helped the government act with competence in the process that led to talks in Oslo.

But the CHP, BDP and MHP continually opposed this positive process. They said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was attempting to divide Turkey by collaborating with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leadership in the Qandil Mountains in northern Iraq and with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. Pro-Kurdish parties and politicians backed this “opposition camp” that sought to force the government to backpedal and fiercely opposed the initiative process. Regardless, the process continued, and received great social backing. The overwhelming victory the AK Party secured both at the general elections and at the recent referendum on several constitutional amendments was an expression of the support of the electorate for the government.

Just when we thought everything was progressing happily, we experienced the Habur incident, where some PKK militants were allowed to return through the Habur gate on the border with Iraq. It was followed by the Silvan terrorist attack, bringing the process of resolution effectively to a standstill. Because of the policy adopted by the CHP, Kurds supporting the BDP started to believe that the AK Party would not be able to solve the Kurdish issue.

Now, Kılıçdaroğlu and his party may throw their full weight behind the meeting with the prime minister and, most importantly, explain the reasons for this policy change to CHP supporters, in much the same way as the AK Party explained the initiative to its voters. Only in this way will the CHP be able to question and jettison its old policies and bring social legitimacy to the new.

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