Washington, Brussels must take action against Ankara's pro-Kurdish HDP crackdown- analysts

Brussels and Washington’s muted response against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s increasing crackdown on the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) emboldens Ankara and gives way to further backsliding of Turkey’s flailing democracy, wrote analysts Aykan Erdemir and Sude Akgündoğdu in The National Interest on Friday.

Disenfranchising Turkey’s 6 million pro-Kurdish voters while pushing some 40,000 HDP members out of democratic channels would effectively be the final nail in the coffin of Turkey’s struggling democracy, the pair said.

Turkey’s Constitutional Court in June ordered the HDP - the third largest party in Turkish parliament - to go on trial over alleged links to outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), in a move that has come under sharp condemnation from the West. The HDP denies the charges.

​​Prosecutors are demanding the closure of the HDP, in addition to having the party’s financial assets frozen and 687 party members, including the current deputies in parliament, be banned from politics for a period of five years.

Ankara has in recent years intensified a crackdown on the HDP. Since 2019, 48 of the 65 elected HDP mayors in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish eastern and southeastern regions have been removed from office by the Interior Ministry, citing "terror" investigation'' while thousands HDP members, including party chairs, lawmakers, mayors, and regional officers, have been detained jailed or probed on terror charges.

"Erdogan is willing to bury Turkey’s democracy and rule of law for good if that’s what it takes to keep him in power,’’ the analyst wrote, pointing to the success of of the HDP in the 2015 parliamentary elections, when the party won eight seats causing the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to lose its majority for the first time since coming to power in 2002.

The party in the 2019 local elections won 65 municipalities—eight provinces, 45 sub-provinces, and 12 smaller districts—in the predominantly Kurdish eastern and southeastern Turkey, the analysts recalled.

With the upcoming 2023 elections and AKP approval ratings at an all time low, Erdemir and Akgündoğdu wrote, Erdoğan faces an urgent need to "tilt the playing field’’ against a potential larger defeat against the opposition.

"Unless Turkish authorities know that there will be significant costs, including punitive action by the European Union and Global Magnitsky sanctions by the United States, for going after the country’s second-largest opposition party, they will show no restraint,’’ according to the analysts.

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