Tayip Temel (Peoples' Democratic Party): Our goal is to end authoritarianism and democratise Turkey

Tayip Temel

Published at HDP Europe.

Ali Barış interviewed HDP Deputy Co-Chair Tayip Temel on the upcoming elections, how the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) will campaign with the Green Left Party and possible political developments.

The HDP has put its focus in the election campaign on issues related to the democratisation of the country. Now the HDP has not put forward its own candidate for the presidential election. What is the connection here?

Our party plays a decisive role in the politics of the country through what it does or does not do and what it supports or does not support. We are electorally decisive. All eyes are on us. It is with this in mind and based on our responsibility to our people that we issued a declaration on 27 September 2021 announcing our principles for the politics of the country. We established the principle that we will not oppose and will even support those who are in favour of democracy and freedom. Our principles are formulated in eleven points. These are also a call. We have called for a discussion on the major problems of the country, especially the Kurdish question, on the basis of these principles. We have titled this paper “Call for Justice, Democracy and Peace“. Regarding the presidential elections, we have made it clear that we should discuss these principles and not names. In the discussions we have had, we have seen that we have no disagreement with Mr Kılıçdaroğlu on the basic principles of our declaration, such as strong democracy, an impartial and independent judiciary, ending communal receivership and a democratic solution to the Kurdish question. To reiterate; no one who stands for democracy and freedom can oppose these principles. They are as important to society as bread and water. That is why we insist on our principles and shape our practice accordingly. The meeting we had with Mr Kılıçdaroğlu in Parliament took place on this basis.

What does it mean not to make a statement of support for a candidate in the first phase?

Frankly, we have been at the same point since the declaration of 27 September 2021. Our policies and discourse are in line with this declaration. As I have just said, we have said from the beginning in relation to the presidential elections that principles are important to us, not names. We had already stated this at the time. Today, we remain convinced of it. Our goal is to end this one-man regime that is plaguing the country. We have worked hard to determine the most appropriate ways and methods to achieve this. The issue of nomination of candidates has been discussed intensively in the authorised bodies of our party. We sought the opinions of our rank and file and the peoples. Initially, the tendency to nominate a candidate was stronger. However, the earthquakes of 6 February made us revise our assessments. As a result of the AKP/MHP government’s policies based on profit and plunder, we lost more than 50,000 people. Thousands froze to death because the rigid centralist administration did not react and did not intervene for days in the earthquake areas. We witnessed with great anger how the Erdoğan regime left people to their fate after the earthquake. People rightly object to the so-called presidential system and the AKP/MHP government. The circumstances have changed. As the Labour and Freedom Alliance, we communicated this to the public at a press conference. The fact that we are not fielding a candidate does not mean that we are dismissing our voters in the presidential elections or boycotting the elections.

There were debates within the Labour and Freedom Alliance, to which you also belong, about the question of whether one could stand on joint lists everywhere or whether one could also stand separately. The TIP and the EMEP have managed to get themselves listed separately. What are the risks in this context?

Indeed, the best method in terms of all the oppressed and working people would have been to contest the most important elections in history with a single list. However, the TIP and EMEP, which are part of the Labour and Freedom Alliance, saw fit to contest the elections with their own party logos under the umbrella of the Alliance. This outcome came about despite the long negotiations in the joint meetings. Undoubtedly, this decision brings difficulties. This is because, due to the new electoral law, each party in the alliance has to rely on itself. Unfortunately, even if we as an alliance achieve enough votes to get an MP in a province, we will not be able to get an MP because these votes will be distributed among the three parties. Moreover, since we are not running with our own list in some places, there is a risk that the seat we could not get then will go to another party.

What measures have been taken against this risk?

People can rest assured. We are working with great care and assessing all kinds of risks. All possible precautions are being taken. There is no need to worry. What needs to be done is very simple. All people need to do is to put a “yes” everywhere under the logo of the Green Left Party. If we put our stamp everywhere we see the purple trunk of the YSP, there will be no problem. If we carry the Green Left Party as the strongest representative of the oppressed and labourers to the parliament in these important elections, all machinations will come to nothing, and all risks will be eliminated.

It is said again and again that these elections are a turning point. What specifically distinguishes these elections from others?

It may sound like a cliché, but these elections are actually very, very critical. When we say that the 2023 elections will be a watershed, we are not saying that to motivate people. The 2023 elections will indeed be fateful elections for the country. There are only two options. Either we stop fascism or fascism will grow stronger and suffocate society. This is not a joke, there is no other way. This is why the elections on 14 May 2023 will be the most critical elections in history. You know, on the roads, for example, when we cross the Bosphorus, we sometimes see a sign saying “Last exit before the bridge”. The elections on 14 May are just like that. It is the last exit before the bridge. Either we will take the road to fascism, or we will choose democracy and freedoms. It is as simple as that. That is why, frankly, we do not think that the 2023 elections will be elections where everyone measures their own power and puts on a show. We cannot afford such a luxury. If fascism wins, it will be too late.

What would be the impact of the presence of the Green Left Party in parliament with a hundred or more MPs?

In both the presidential and parliamentary systems, the parliament plays an important role in the legislative process. If the Green Left Party enters the parliament with a hundred deputies, the oppressed, the marginalised and those whose rights and laws are not protected in Turkish politics will have a decisive influence on what laws are made and how in the parliament, and most importantly, they will have a say in the new government. The legal regulations of the two hegemonic blocs that prioritise capital, profit and destruction will be prevented. In other words, the election of a hundred or more Green Left MPs will be a guarantee for the defence of society not only against one party, but against both blocs.

Your party focuses in particular on the end of the current regime. The programme for the time after has faded into the background. What can you say about the perspective?

On the eve of the second century of the republic, we are entering an electoral campaign in which we will witness a historic showdown of the blocs within the system. As those who are excluded and marginalised in this country, we insist on the third way. For this reason, we are not looking at the forthcoming elections in a manner limited to a showdown of the blocs within the system. We have put forward a series of objectives to organise and strengthen the third way and to ensure that it will be decisive in the new period. In this context, we advocate a line that is not content with removing the government and creating a new one, but also changing the existing order and making this change sustainable.

In the opposition there is confidence that the AKP/MHP government will be defeated, and in pro-government circles there is concern …

First of all, the opposition should not be caught up in the climate of unrest and fear that the government wants to create with regard to a solution to Turkey’s historical problems. Courageous statements on historical problems, especially on the Kurdish question, will both shatter the psychological climate that the government wants to create and stop those who benefit from social polarisation.

In this context, it can be said that society is far ahead of the two hegemonic blocs within the system. The goal of politicising society’s leadership and bringing it together with the perspective of the democratic republic will both open the doors to victory and be an antidote to conformist obstacles such as complacency.

There have always been provocations and fraud in past elections. How do you see this danger in the current election process?

The AKP/MHP government will, of course, use all kinds of tactics and tricks to win the elections. We are dealing with a criminal government that has no moral principles, that has experience with theft and that considers every opportunity to win as legitimate. We know this, but if we put ourselves in a passive position because of it, we will lose. It is said that elections are won at the ballot box. The security of the ballot box will be very important in these elections. We have made preparations to ensure that not a single vote is stolen, but the opposition must work together and unite in protecting the ballot boxes. If people had not protected the ballot boxes in the last elections in Istanbul, the fraud would probably have been covered up. To prevent this, we must take care of the ballot boxes. We should not be complacent until the last ballot box is opened, and we should not allow votes to be stolen. For this, we are ready for all partnerships.

How will the nomination process for candidates work?

Of course, as in every legislative period, what the people want and who they want to see in parliament is taken into account. However, as these elections are different from the previous ones, the candidates should be people who can represent the will of the people in parliament and defend their rights. We want them to come from the people as much as possible. In addition to representatives of peoples, beliefs and cultures, workers, civil servants, pensioners, farmers and students should also be able to enter parliament and defend the rights of the segment to which they belong in parliament. The commissions pay the utmost attention and care to this during the nomination process.

There are one and a half months until the election. Now it is important to make the Green Left Party known. Do you have any appeals to the voters?

We are contesting the elections with the Green Left Party. The logo of the Green Left Party and the HDP are similar. This is a big advantage for us. For illiterate people, it is important that the logo is similar. Moreover, we come from a tradition where every smallest activity is crucial. We will visit every house and introduce and explain the Green Left Party. The logo of the Green Left Party looks like a tree and a human being. It symbolises the past through its roots, the present through its trunk and the future with its branches. It is exactly the logo that fits our paradigm.

On 30 March, the election programme was announced. The election slogan and the election song were presented. Can you say something about this?

We will run a campaign that carries the claim of the struggle, its conviction and its principles from the past to the future. We will convey the message that we will not leave our peoples without an alternative against all kinds of political conspiracies, that we are facing a great challenge and that we are the force of change. We will run the most exciting and promising election campaign ever. We are full of enthusiasm and great fervour. Despite the repression, we will send the message that we are here and together we will make a difference. And we will definitely achieve that.