Under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the AKP government has used the success of the HDP in the parliamentary elections in June 2015, a state military campaign against the PKK since July 2015, and the failed military coup of July 2016 to successfully dismantle the HDP and carry out comprehensive purges across the political and civil society spectrum of the Kurds.
Since then, numerous arrests and bans have taken place. This has not only affected the HDP leadership, but also its grassroots membership. Thousands of activists have been arrested, while more than 90 HDP mayors have been arbitrarily deposed and placed under state administration. Party leader Selahattin Demirtas and co-president Figen Yuksekdag, not to mention a number of other HDP MPs, have also been imprisoned since November 2016 and are serving long jail sentences.
Yet, despite repression and containment, the HDP managed to become an important factor in the recent elections and thus a serious democratic political force in Turkey. Beyond marginalisation, repression and unequal electoral conditions, the HDP not only managed to make a decisive contribution to the CHP's victory and to make its key role visible as a factor in the balance. Above all, it was able to recapture many of the mayoral offices in the Kurdish southeast that had been placed under state administration.
Nevertheless, shortly after the local elections, the High Electoral Authority rejected the victory of six HDP mayors on the grounds that the HDP mayors concerned had previously been dismissed from public service by decree and were therefore unsuitable for the office. The HDP rightly criticised the decision as "arbitrary" because the High Electoral Authority had not raised any objections during registration and had admitted the candidates to the election.
The CHPʹs dilemma – between authoritarian Kemalism and democracy
The question remains as to whether the CHP will take this result, achieved thanks to the support of the HDP, as an opportunity to finally abandon its still dominant rigid attitude towards Kurds and the HDP in favour of genuine social democratic liberalisation and integration of the Kurdish demands. This would give the CHP more scope.