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The 2011 Elections and the Kurdish Question1

This essay argues that the 2011 election results point to a number of important conclusions concerning the Kurdish question in Turkey. First, the Kurdish party will continue to be the main actor in “Kurdish question politics.” Second, the AK Party has been unable to halt the rise of the Kurdish party in a number of provinces with large Kurdish populations. Third, political parties, other than the Kurdish party and the AK Party, have been eliminated from “Kurdish question politics.” This essay will demonstrate that the support for the Kurdish party is gradually acquiring a territorial dimension. Thus, this essay argues that the notion of democratic autonomy proposed today for the whole of Turkey by the Kurdish party may over time give way to the political objective of “autonomy for Kurdistan” or even “federal Kurdistan.” It is also argued that the same trend may foster a political agenda of “Kurds to Kurdistan” to take hold in Turkish politics.

The 2011 Elections and the Kurdish Question1
Even if Kurdish parties in Turkey have always nurtured the idea of an autonomous Kurdistan, the ideal of an independent or federal Kurdistan has always been weak among Turkey’s Kurds.
 

The 2011 election results point to a number of important conclusions concerning the general direction of the Kurdish question in Turkey. The first important conclusion concerns the recent political and electoral trajectory of the Kurdish party that has been marked by ups and downs.2 The legal Kurdish party, which has been an effective actor in Turkish politics since the 1991 elections, has come back from the electoral losses that it suffered in the 2007 elections, as compared to its successful performance in the 2002 elections. It now appears to have carved out a permanent place within Turkish politics. The second important conclusion has to do with the ruling party. The AK Party (Justice and Development Party), which in the 2007 elections enjoyed a great deal of support among the Kurdish electorate, appears to have been unable to replicate the same level of success in provinces with a large Kurdish population. This is in contrast with the AK Party’s trend of seeing its share of the pan-Turkish vote steadily rise over the 2002, 2007, and 2011 elections. While increasing its vote in Turkey as a whole, the AK Party was overtaken by the Kurdish party in a good number of provinces in South-Eastern and Eastern Anatolia with large Kurdish populations. The third important conclusion relates to Turkey’s political electoral process over the past ten years. The trend that first manifested itself in the 2002 general elections, whereby Kurdish voters either voted for the Kurdish party or the AK Party, peaked in the 2011 elections. Indeed, the last election saw that voter support for parties, apart from these two parties, fell dramatically in provinces where Kurdish citizens make up a substantial proportion of the population. This paper discuss in greater detail below these three important conclusions triggered by the June 12, 2001 elections.

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