PKK cease-fire end seen as move to help BDP before elections

ERCAN YAVUZ
ANKARA

BDP leader Selahattin Demirta?
BDP leader Selahattin Demirta?

Neither the government nor any of Turkey’s intelligence units were surprised when the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) announced on Monday that it was ending a unilateral cease-fire — which it referred to as a “non-action decision” — that was announced on Aug. 13 of last year.
PM Tayyip Erdo?an said Turkey would continue to implement the measures it has taken so far and had no intentions of negotiating with the PKK or say anything that could be taken as such, speaking to journalists on a plane taking him back to Turkey from Germany on Monday night. “We as the government govern the state, so we will do what it takes to ensure peace for our people as dictated by law and within the limits of law. A political party that is in Parliament hurling out threats of this kind during every election period puts pressure on people who want to exercise their democratic will and serves no other purpose,” Erdo?an said, referring to the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which has been accused of maintaining links to the PKK.

He also said Kurdish intellectuals, writers and artists who are currently abroad are welcome to return. He said both Kurdish singer ?ivan Perwer and intellectual Kemal Burkay, who have been abroad for many years, have been threatened by the PKK. “All that we can do is invite them back and say they are more than welcome here.”
In fact, the PKK’s move was expected, as intelligence units of the police department and other security related agencies have for some time been suggesting that the PKK would try to provoke residents of the East and Southeast ahead of general elections, scheduled for June 12 of this year, in an attempt to increase the votes of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). In a meeting on Feb. 24, the National Security Council (MGK) discussed possible measures to protect against unwanted incidents that might be provoked by the PKK. The MGK meeting reviewed information provided by security units that said the PKK would end its “period of non-action,” both in connection with its concerns about the general elections and due to its uneasiness about the ongoing trial of its urban offshoot, the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), as part of which many BDP mayors have been jailed as suspects. The PKK’s announcement on Monday only confirmed the intelligence Turkish security officials have gathered so far.
According to a senior government member who asked not to be named, the PKK’s latest move was heavily influenced by the organization’s political wing and its recent political assessments. BDP leaders also played a role in this decision. The government believes the announcement to end the cease-fire was made by the KCK’s Executive Council and further confirms the political motivations behind the decision.

PKK terrorists stand by the Kandil Mountains near the Iraqi-Turkish border in Sulaimaniya, 330 kilometers northeast of Baghdad. The PKK took up arms in 1984 to fight for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey.

Currently, about 400 local BDP mayors and municipal officers have been detained as part of the KCK trial. They are accused of having links to the PKK. The BDP has reacted harshly in the face of the arrests, denying that the KCK had any links to the PKK. However, the fact that it was the KCK that made public the PKK’s ending of the cease-fire has served as evidence of the connection between it and the terrorist group.
BDP runs risk of no group
In fact, the PKK regularly announces unilateral cease-fires during the winter, mainly owing to weather conditions in the region, which make it very difficult to stage attacks. Once winter ends, the PKK usually springs back into action and starts attacking mostly military targets in the East and Southeast.
However, the PKK’s announcement comes a little early this year, as predicted by intelligence sources. The prime reason is a strategic one. The PKK has increasingly been worried about the loss of votes the BDP has suffered in its own region. In fact, the BDP now runs the risk of not being able to send 20 deputies to Parliament, the minimum number required to form a group in Parliament. BDP deputies run as independents and re-join their party after they get elected because of a 10 percent election threshold for parliamentary representation of political parties.
In fact, the BDP has been so concerned about this possibility that it has been focusing its efforts on attracting votes elsewhere, such as large provinces — including ?stanbul, ?zmir, Adana and Mersin — that have had an influx of Kurdish migrants from the Southeast. Among these provinces, only in ?stanbul does the BDP have two deputies. One of these is Ufuk Uras, the former leader of the Freedom and Democracy Party (ÖDP). Uras ran in the third electoral region in ?stanbul in the previous elections. Although not a Kurd himself, he had received votes from many left-wing voters not necessarily committed to the Kurdish cause. Another factor that worries the BDP is that in the current situation, small left-wing parties that ran separately in the previous election have moved closer to the Republican People’s Party (CHP). This small left-wing bloc was previously an important source of votes for the BDP.
Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Deputy Chairman Salih Kapusuz shared with Today’s Zaman his opinion that the PKK was the most unprincipled organization in the world, noting that its decision to end the cease-fire would also help the cause of other circles that might have their own agenda regarding the elections.
“We knew that the PKK wouldn’t stick to its ‘non-action decision.’ We weren’t surprised — we were expecting all kinds of provocations in the run-up to the general elections. But now, even if the PKK does not stage any attacks or demonstrations, all large-scale attacks will be blamed on the PKK. The PKK has always worked together with powers that have their own sinister agendas, and it will continue to do so.”
AK Party Tokat deputy Hüseyin Gülsün said the PKK has long made it a habit to create an environment of fear in the region during election time. However, he said this would be difficult due to some legislative changes, noting that he doubted the PKK would be able to exert its influence on voters, which is likely to put the BDP in a difficult situation.
What the PKK plans
Intelligence sources report that the PKK places great emphasis on Nevruz — a spring festival mainly celebrated by Kurds — and March 8, International Women’s Day. They expect demonstrations and clashes with security forces to peak at these two times. The PKK cited the halting of the government’s democratic initiative as the reason behind the lifting of the cease-fire. However, hours after that, Prime Minister Erdo?an invited exiled Kurdish intellectuals, including Burkay and Perwer, to return to Turkey. If these individuals, who have long been blacklisted by the PKK, return to Turkey, this is also likely to give the BDP a hard time.
BDP parliamentary group deputy chairman Bengi Y?ld?z told Today’s Zaman that the PKK had highly justifiable reasons for ending the cease-fire. Y?ld?z claimed the election results would not be healthy, due to many Kurdish politicians having been put behind bars because of the KCK investigation and the extremely tight security measures in the region, which are usually taken during elections. “No importance is given to our opinions and views when there is no violence. Must we always be engaged in conflict for us to be taken seriously? We named our demands, including education in Kurdish and democratic autonomy, while the non-action decision was in place, but these were met with incredibly negative reactions. We believe that if the government acts as the democratic initiative dictates, the PKK would review its decision,” Y?ld?z said. An equally harsh stance was put forth by BDP leader Selahattin Demirta?, who recently said the preparations to bring Perwer and Burkay back to Turkey amounted to hypocrisy, demanding that the government release the 2,000 KCK and BDP members who were put behind bars on terrorism charges.
International Terrorism and Transnational Crime Research Center (UTSAM) Director Süleyman Özeren said the PKK’s announcement was an expected development. He said the announcement would only contribute to the current impasse, rather than bringing Turkey closer to a solution. He also said the PKK’s claim that the government was not doing enough to solve the Kurdish question was untrue. However, he also said that the decision to end non-action did not necessarily mean that the cease-fire was ending “because Öcalan has not made a specific statement about this. Of course, he hasn’t in order to underline the importance of his role. He is attempting to have the last word during crucial stages of decision-making.” Özeren said Öcalan was trying to send the message that he could control the PKK’s separatist violence, implying that only he can decide when the PKK will attack or not.


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