"HDP lost votes following a campaign of fear against Kurdish voters"

Pro-Kurdish party down from 6 to 5 million votes, manages to keep seats in Turkish parliament · Erdogan's AKP re-takes absolute majority · Nationalia talks to election observer Eulàlia Reguant, speaking from Kurdistan

Policemen prevent the Catalan delegation from witnessing votes taking place in a polling place in Agri.
Policemen prevent the Catalan delegation from witnessing votes taking place in a polling place in Agri. Author: Plataforma Azadí
Selahattin Demirtas's and Figen Yüksekdag's Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP, leftist pro-Kurdish)  managed to maintain its presence in the Grand Assembly -the Turkish legislature- after the party secured 10.7% of the votes in yesterday's snap election, thus clearing the 10% threshold required by the electoral law to be allocated seats. The HDP returned 59 seats, 21 less than in the June 2015 vote.

The decline was also evident in the HDP's overall number of votes: 5 million now, down from 6 million in June. "Votes to the HDP have fallen because of a campaign of fear" against Kurdish voters, today said Catalan MP Eulàlia Reguant, who was in the Kurdish city of Agri over the weekend to monitor the election alongside a Catalan delegation coordinated by civil society groups CIEMEN and Plataforma Azadí.

"[HDP members] believe that people went yesterday to the polls afraid to go back to the 1990s," a period of time when the PKK-Turkey conflict claimed thousands of lives in North Kurdistan.

Over the last weeks, the "campaign of fear" that Reguant refers to has included threats to Kurdish movement members, arrests of elected representatives, violent attacks against the party, and the October 10th Ankara bombing against a demonstration co-organized by the HDP, which claimed the lives of more than 100 people.

On election day "strong police presence, both uniformed or not," was evident in Kurdish polling places, Reguant said. "This fact intimidates voters. Furthermore, armed [policemen] were found inside the polling stations although the law says they should have been at least 15 meters away."

Difficulties found by the HDP over the campaign continued last night: "The party yesterday had no place of assembly in Agri, fearing attacks and police repression," Reguant explained. "In small towns, polling stations were concentrated in only one place so that people had to travel. For example, people from 12 villages had to vote in the same polling place."

AKP secures absolute majority

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP, conservative islamist) yesterday emerged as the election's big winner after receiving 49.4% of the votes. The party obtained 317 seats out of 550 in the Great Assembly. This means AKP re-takes the absolute majority it had lost in June, when it was left with only 258 seats.

The CHP (kemalist social democrat) maintained the second place, with 25.3% of the votes and 134 seats, 2 more than in June. The other party that yesterday managed to make it into Parliament was the Nationalist Movement Party (Turkish ultranationalist), with 11.9% of the votes and 40 seats (down from 80 in June).

It now remains to be seen whether the Turkish government will seek to resume peace talks to find a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Kurdistan. Erdogan may be tempted to step up his authoritarian drift. But Reguant claims HDP sources yesterday said they are "convinced" that talks will go on, despite recent clashes between the PKK and the Turkish army. The situation in recent months, those sources claim, was an AKP "tactic" to regain the absolute majority.

The fact that Demirtas yesterday accepted the election result -even if the HDP leader noted that the vote had been "neither clean nor fair"- again shows, Reguant says, that the pro-Kurdish party remains in favour of talks with the Turkish government.