A Democratic Opening? The AKP and the Kurdish Left

Since its foundation, militant democratic arguments have underpinned an enforced secularism in Turkey. The 2002 election of the AKP, described as a “moderate Islamist party”, has challenged Turkey’s secular identity. In the more than twelve years since the AKP has been in power, Turkey’s political landscape has experienced significant changes, with periods of extensive democratic reforms punctuated by regression in certain areas, notably freedom of expression and the right to protest. State repressive measures coupled with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s reluctance to exit the political stage have been the focus of much commentary and analysis. This article argues, however, that under AKP rule the Kurdish issue – critical to ensuring the normalization of politics and democratization in Turkey – has been brought in from the political cold and assesses the creation and role of the HDP, a Kurdish political party that is endeavoring to situate itself in the mainstream of Turkey’s political landscape. We posit that the HDP can be viewed as the offspring of this “democratic opening,” a project that was meant to ensure a radical transformation of the Kurdish issue in Turkey. Through analysing the historical trajectory of both AKP and HDP and the militant democratic arguments that led to their predecessors’ exclusion from the public sphere, this article engages with the key question of the extent to which the AKP’s treatment of the Kurdish issue has provided a vehicle for broader democratisation and facilitated a reconsideration of the Kurdish question in Turkey.
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DOI 10.1515/mwjhr-2015-0005
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