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Turkey’s Radical Right and the Kurdish Issue: The MHP’s Reaction to the “Democratic Opening”

Turkey’s current government’s ‘democratic opening’ project has led to a series of political discussions regarding the cause and resolve of the Kurdish issue. One major consequence of this debate has been the polarization of opinion between conservatives, represented by the ruling Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) and nationalists, represented by the Nationalist Action Party (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi, MHP). This study elaborates on the major reasons for MHP’s opposition to AKP on the ‘democratic opening.’ In doing so, the study examines the historical, ideological distinctions between the two parties and their perception of ethnic and linguistic differences in Turkish society. AKP comes from a political tradition that has been relatively more accommodating towards such differences. On the contrary, MHP has roots in an ethno-nationalist and mono-culturalist ideology, which can be observed in its denial of the identity component of the Kurdish issue.

Turkey s Radical Right and the Kurdish Issue The MHP
There are some signs of MHP’s changing stance towards the Kurds as Bahçeli recognized the Kurdish reality in Turkey, unlike Türkeş who was reactive to the Kurdish reality
 

One of the most controversial policies of the current government in Turkey has been the ‘democratic opening’ project. This novel project has also been referred to as the ‘Kurdish opening’ or the ‘national unity project.’ The main purpose of this project was to normalize the long-standing Kurdish issue, resolve it through civilian means, and provide a rapprochement between the Turkish state and the non-conformist Kurdish population in Turkey. Even though the opening theoretically applies to other groups, such as the non-Muslims and Romanis, it was obvious from the beginning that the major target group was the Kurds. Above all, the opening aimed to disarm and disband the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK),1 which the Turkish state has perceived as a terrorist organization.

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