BDP braces for charter bargaining

bdp-braces-for-charter-bargaining-2011-06-13_l2.jpgGÖKSEL BOZKURT
ANKARA – Daily News Parliament Bureau
Leyla Zana, prominent Kurdish politician, will haggle hard for the new charter.

Flush with its success in Sunday’s general elections, the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, is expected to drive a hard bargain over the new constitution that will be written following the polls.

The party’s strategy of circumventing the 10 percent election threshold by supporting independent candidates paid off with an increase in parliamentary seats from 22 to 36, increasing the BDP’s political influence. With figures such as Leyla Zana, Hasip Kaplan and Hatip Dicle in its group, the party is expected to be more insistent in imposing its conditions for backing the new charter.

Zana is one of the new deputies expected to play tough on the constitutional debate. A Kurdish-rights activist and former legislator who spent a decade in prison after being convicted of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in the mid-1990s, Zana was elected Sunday from the southeastern province of Diyarbakır. She was previously elected to Parliament in 1991 but caused outrage when she spoke Kurdish while taking the oath of office, challenging rules that barred the speaking of non-Turkish languages in official settings.

“We have conditions for the new constitution: the implementation of democratic autonomy, the use of mother tongues and the granting of constitutional citizenship,” said Kaplan, who won his seat as an independent candidate in the southeastern province of Şırnak. “Furthermore, we want the new charter to contain democratization [measures and an] expansion of freedom of thought in its largest sense.”

Reducing the election threshold, terminating military operations against the PKK and the release of Kurdish politicians are also very important for them, Kaplan said.

Thirty-six elected deputies and top officials from the BDP will meet Tuesday in Diyarbakır to analyze the election results and outline the party’s road map in the new era.

Participants will include prominent names who were victorious in the general elections, for which the BDP formed a broad alliance under the Labor, Democracy and Freedom bloc, aligning itself with other pro-Kurdish parties the Rights and Freedoms Party, or HAK-PAR, and the Participatory Democracy Party, or KADEP, as well as some socialist groups.

Successful figures supported by the bloc include Sırrı Sürreyya Önder, a screenwriter and director who is also known for his newspaper columns for dailies BirGün, Radikal and Özgür Gündem; Ertuğrul Kürkçü, one of the leaders of the 1968 student movements in Turkey; and Erol Dora, the Turkish Republic’s first Syriac Christian deputy.

Abdullah Levent Tüzel, the leader of the socialist Labor Party, or EMEP, and Islamist writer Altan Tan have also been elected as independents backed by the BDP-led bloc