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‘The times they are a-changin’

Wednesday 21 November 2007, by Fehmi Koru

The public prosecutor’s announcement that he has started the legal procedures to close down the Democratic Society Party (DTP) by preparing a dossier enumerating all of its political blemishes for the Constitutional Court didn’t bring the usual end result. All the political powers — with the exception of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) — raised their voices, and their voices were very critical of the decision; and curiously enough the leaders of the party under threat of closure didn’t seem to be unhappy and in mourning.

My belief that Turkey will become a full-fledged democracy soon has been proven correct again. All the democratic forces in the country are united in demanding a stop to the procedures.

Up to now, during the democratic era, more than 40 parties have been outlawed by the courts. With newly legislated legal framework harmonizing our laws with those of the European Union, it is highly difficult to ban a political party, let alone close it. Although the DTP has done everything to bring the calamity upon itself, I believe the judges in the Constitutional Court will find a way to keep the DTP afloat.

The DTP itself is a successor to a series of previously outlawed Kurdish parties. One of its forerunners, the Democracy Party (DEP), was closed down in the early 1990s by the Constitutional Court, and its members, who occupied 13 seats in Parliament, were stripped of their immunity and put into prison. The DTP leaders now have been trying to obtain the same outcome by forcing the authorities to file a court case against the party by indulging in shady political activities and unlawful public statements.


In the latest general election the DTP has been relegated to second place in southeastern Anatolia. It received nearly 1.5 million votes, making it the fifth party in Turkey, but it was the worst election result in all the years the DTP and its forerunners have competed in elections. The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has been successful in receiving enough votes in the Southeast to claim that with its more than 75 deputies of Kurdish origin, it represents the people of that region better. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in a rare public disclosure, made known his intention to gain municipalities traditionally held by DTP member mayors in the upcoming local elections.

If that intention is going to be realized, then the DTP will lose its monopolistic claim on representing the Kurds. And politics running on an ethnic platform will languish. The DTP losing its political platform and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on the verge of being dissolved militarily might be too much for fragile politicians to bear, unable to survive under the circumstances, not to mention the İmralı prisoner, whose only purpose following his imprisonment is to meddle in day-to-day politics by using political and non-political devices.

And now when political life does not run on the ethnic identity platform, all the patron-client systems based on that platform’s existence will be brought down.

The latest poll conducted by the MetroPoll Strategic and Social Studies Center in Ankara attests to a change in the attitude towards politics of ordinary Kurds living in southeastern cities. The primary concern of the people living in the region was once local and ethnic considerations, but that concern now has shifted in favor of broad-based national politics. More than half of the public in the region believe the PKK is a terrorist organization and that the DTP must declare it as such. Almost two-thirds are against a new Kurdish state emerging in Iraq. Only 1 percent of the Kurds living in Turkey have shown some preference to emigrating to the other side of the border if such an opportunity presents itself. The AK Party not only won the votes of the people of Kurdish origin throughout Turkey, but also managed to drastically change public opinion in the region: Until very recently the people in the region tended toward breaking up and heading for new adventures; now they seek pleasure in unity and togetherness.

The very first day when the election results were announced and the AK Party’s huge success in the region was obvious, Ahmet Turk, then the DTP leader, acknowledged defeat in a most peculiar way by saying that their game plan had been shattered.

I hope the answer my question above as to why the DTP leaders are trying to compel legal authorities to file a court case for closing their party has found its reply: Their game plan is no longer feasible, and their only way out is to force the reflexes of those days of old to re-emerge — the reflexes of the time when we banned political parties left and right and put politicians in prisons.

Politicians who earn their livelihoods on the Kurdish platform were indeed successful when they used the same tactics of provocation to obtain the results they are currently after. In the early 1990s the Constitutional Court banned their party and Parliament voted them out. With new laws in harmony with the EU making party closure almost impossible and changing the attitudes of the politicians toward their colleagues who have gone astray, I don’t think their cunning old ways will come to anything.

The process of banning DEP from Parliament in the early 1990s was the direct result of then-Prime Minister Tansu Çiller’s accusation that the PKK was in Parliament; she pointed a finger at DEP members and accused them of being PKK dummies. When the public prosecutor announced recently that he is applying to the Constitutional Court to request the DTP’s closure, Prime Minister Erdoğan responded, saying, “It is better to let them talk than forcing them to join the militants in the mountains.”

A fan cannot help but remember an old Bob Dylan song fitting to the current situation:

Come gather ‘round people / Wherever you roam / And admit that the waters / Around you have grown / And accept it that soon / You’ll be drenched to the bone. // If your time to you / Is worth savin’/ Then you better start swimmin’ / Or you’ll sink like a Stone / For the times they are a-changin’.

Some never learn — change is inevitable.

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Source : TDZ, 19.11.2007

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