ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin is expected to leave his post soon to run for the Hatay mayoral seat in local elections.
Adequate steps related to the solution of the Kurdish issue are not being taken because of the approaching local elections. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is acting very cautiously and prefers to postpone the Kurdish demands until after the elections as much as possible.
During the week, the government sent the fifth democracy package, which the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) said was quite “lacking,” to the Parliament. The reason that a major portion of Abdullah Öcalan’s list of demands were not in the package is explained with the election atmosphere the country has entered. Government spokesmen defend this thesis a lot in the lobbies. The democracy package will be debated in the Parliament in the last week of December and the first week of January.
Well, under these circumstances, is it possible for Öcalan’s demands, for the changes that the BDP defines as “road clearance,” to happen?
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, after the voting of the budget, may make the cabinet reshuffle. New appointments for the three ministers Sadullah Ergin, Fatma Şahin and Binali Yıldırım, who will be candidates in the local elections, are expected as well as a reshuffle in the cabinet. Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin had undertaken a significant role in the reconciliation process of the Kurdish issue. Ergin’s sincere dialogue that he developed with BDP executives had found a positive reflection in the Kurdish front. Ergin’s constructive style was liked by the Kurds.
It is important at this stage who will replace Ergin, and whether the new minister will be able to construct the synergy Ergin had formed with the Kurds. More than one name is pronounced in the lobbies for this seat. Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ is one of these names. Also AKP General Secretary Haluk İpek and AKP Deputy General Manager and member of the Constitution Conciliation Commission Mustafa Şentop are other names.
Who will occupy this seat is important for the Kurds because they will both conduct tough negotiations over the 5th democracy package with the new minister and also they will work together on the now periodic İmralı visits. If the resolution process transfers to the “negotiation” stage after the local elections, then again this name occupying the seat will be the minister Kurds will be working with the most.
I asked BDP Co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş whether a Kurdish origin Justice Minister would facilitate business. Demirtaş said, “I don’t have any idea of the ethnic background of Sadullah Ergin. I never asked. It does not matter whether he is Kurdish, Turkish or something else. What matters is their point of view.”
Demirtaş also implied that they were preparing for a tough bargain for the fifth package. According to him, AKP is not able to take major steps before elections but it can make some annexing to the package relaxing the process. I asked, “What could they be?” He listed his demands as such:
“Arrangements related to the freedom of expression, deputies under arrest, and long-term detentions should be done swiftly. We will try to include these in the package that will arrive in January. Especially the issue of the arrested deputies is a delicate matter. If some distance is covered in that matter, then the process will be a bit more relaxed. If it is left until after the elections then it would be compulsory for the government to prepare a package much stronger, much more comprehensive, one that includes many more items...”
The Kurdish wing obviously is keeping its expectations low before the elections on the matter about the changes concerning “road clearance,” but after that they are openly declaring that they will be expecting extensively comprehensive talks and then a wide package.
Will the government be able to meet the expectations Demirtaş has been listing? I tried to take the pulse of the AKP lobbies. My impression is that during January, the biggest step the government would take would be the releasing of sick prisoners. Beyond that, they do not think of touching the package very much…
A law is sought for the Alevi initiative
The government has not been able to take any concrete steps related to the Alevi
initiative it has been working on for two years. However, it looks as if it has pushed the button to extend an olive branch to the Alevis before the local elections. There could be new arrangements introduced to the Parliament in the next process. The government refuses to recognize the cemevis as worship locations and the Alevis refuse the “cultural center” approach. For this reason, the AKP, without naming it, will make a legal arrangement where infrastructural costs of cemevis such as land, electricity, water, staff fees including Alevi
religious leaders (dede) will be met by the state. It is extremely important which law will cover this status. For example, if they are covered by Religious Affairs Law, then they will be treated as worship places. To avoid this, a change is being discussed in the municipality or development plan laws. From what I heard, everybody agrees for the providing of free infrastructural services but it is not clear yet which law it would be annexed to…
‘Rightist candidate’ shortage at CHP
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) will start announcing its local election candidates within the next week. The main trouble in the party is the search for a candidate who is able to receive votes from central right and moreover nationalist segments in cities such as Ankara, Adana and Hatay. Kılıçdaroğlu targets to increase the party’s votes with this and also to take some cities from the AKP and not to give some others to the AKP. However, this stance creates disturbances in those within the party who are in the ultra-nationalist and left wings. The debate will be this at next week’s party assembly. If Kılıçdaroğlu persuades the assembly, then some surprise names of the central right could be candidates for important cities.