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There is no doubt that Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has come out stronger from the local elections on Sunday. Similarly there is no doubt that the Kurdish regions confirm they are going their own way, which is not the same as the rest of the country.
The Justice and Development Party (AKP ) led by Erdoğan got 7% more at a national level than in the local elections of 2009. It has lost major cities though, especially in Kurdistan, and had to fight to keep control of the capital city, Ankara, and Istanbul.
Erdoğan did not give up his hard line and was as arrogant as ever: he denounced fraud and conspiracy against him. He boldly stood on the balcony of his party headquarters in Ankara for his victory speech, accompanied by his son who is under investigation for corruption. The prime minister wanted to deliver to the country the image of a leader who fears nothing and nobody. But on this occasion too he has proved all his fears. Erdoğan shouts to conceal his fear. But he won. But he won because in the country there is a conservative majority who likes and agrees (feels strong) with the “hard way” promoted by Erdoğan. It is a majority who has a deep resentment against what the journalist Nuray Mert calls “the cultural and political hegemony of secularism.”
It’s a majority as afraid as the prime minister it votes for. Arrogance and fear, feelings of omnipotence and fragile paranoia: they have been the hallmarks of this government. In recent years, Erdoğan and his government have been gripped by a desire for omnipotence that has led them to be less open to compromise and negotiation. On the other hand they have begun to see threats against them from all sides. And this has made them less and less tolerant of any kind of dissent and even hostile to virtually everybody, apart from their supporters.
So Erdoğan today enjoys a confirmed and enhanced majority, but this is likely to make him even more afraid and therefore more hostile and violent.
The other side of the coin was the confirmation that Kurdistan continues undeterred on its way towards democratic autonomy. The BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) maintained control of major cities such as Diyarbakır, Van, Hakkari, Sirnak, Dersim and won Mardin, Bitlis and Agri from the AKP. The southeast is in all respects a different world compared to the West. The Kurds on the one hand voted for peace, supporting the BDP, and on the other confirmed that the governance model proposed by this party is the model they like and it is a model that works. The democratic autonomy proposed by the BDP is based on a truly participatory democracy through the creation of people’s assemblies working in neighbourhoods and in close contact with institutions.
The BDP, along with the newly-born HDP (People’s Democracy Party) which mainly ran in the west of the country, scored 6.4% of votes at a national level, increasing the consensus of its predecessor, the DTP (made illegal in 2009). For the HDP this has been an important test, although the results may have been a bit below expectations. But the party has time to adjust and change what is needed in view of the political elections scheduled for 2015.