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161 I n July 2007 a pro-Kurdish party won representation in the Turkish parliament for the first time in thirteen years. Although running as independents , the nearly two-dozen new parliamentarians represented the Democratic Society Party (DTP), formed in 2005. Among the unlikely new members of Parliament was a Kurdish lawyer who had been imprisoned on charges of separatism until the day she was voted into office and a former human rights activist who had barely survived an assassination attempt in which he was shot six times. The moment of their election was not auspicious: the new deputies took the oath of office at a time when proKurdish mayors and party administrators were routinely being detained and taken to court, when rising numbers of clashes between PKK forces and the Turkish Armed Forces were killing tens of people every month Conclusions Assessing a Challenger’s Impacts 162 conclusions (and, soon, every week), and when it looked as if Turkey might go to war with Kurdish forces in northern Iraq. Hopes for a peaceful solution to the country’s “Kurdish conflict” seemed increasingly bleak. The election thus returns us to some of the central questions of this book: given the unpromising context, what could pro-Kurdish activists such as these newly elected parliamentarians gain by using Turkey’s formal political system? In a field of conflict structured primarily by violent conflict between the PKK and the Turkish Armed Forces, what could they do from within the system that might make a difference? How might their time in office affect the communities they claimed to represent and the movement’s relations with Turkish authorities? Was it, to put it bluntly, worth their trouble? Assessing pro-Kurdish efforts between 1990 and 2008 highlights some of the very real opportunities and constraints of using the ballot box and formal party politics to promote a Kurdish national agenda in Turkey. Creating political parties and winning elected office provided new material , legal, access, role-related, and legitimacy resources that were largely unavailable to armed contenders or other actors working outside formal politics. These resources included tangible assets such as state funding for political parties, municipal budgets, use of buildings as “safe spaces,” control over the hiring and use of thousands of employees, legal protection, and votes. They also included less tangible resources such as access to high-level decision makers and the role resources of administration and governance. All of these could be used to further a pro-Kurdish agenda in various ways. However, pro-Kurdish party members, activists, and administrative and elected officials were subjected to heavy levels of coercion from the judiciary, security forces, Parliament, bureaucracy, and extra-legal, stateaffiliated actors. The effects of this coercion varied according to time period, level of coordination between different branches of the state, and type of coercion employed. Lack of coordinated coercion often meant the parties had a certain amount of room in which to maneuver; despite paying a heavy price in human life and liberty, the parties and elected representatives could still take some advantage of the opportunities of party politics and elected office. These spaces within the system were, nonetheless , highly unstable, as evidenced in 1994 when the parties’ parliamentary deputies were ejected from national politics through the combined conclusions 163 efforts of the Parliament, security forces, and judiciary. The parties also withdrew from local politics at this time due to coercion from Turkish authorities and the PKK. In the less militarized environment of 1999 to 2008, juridical coercion against local pro-Kurdish administrators and elected mayors, and EU-related incentive politics favoring a discourse of democracy over self-determination, also circumscribed pro-Kurdish political discourse. High levels of coercion, in addition to internal movement and party dynamics, pushed the party leadership to establish and maintain the parties ’ identities as “challengers” throughout the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century. Although pro-Kurdish parties emerged distinct from the PKK and were not formally subservient to it, some of their administrators and elected officials were close to the PKK, and most of their rank-and-filed constituents were sympathetic to it. In addition, the PKK imposed constraints on party activities in the southeast. Becoming too close to the governing establishment, making too many concessions, becoming too moderate, or publicly criticizing the PKK would have jeopardized the ability of the parties to function and to maintain the support of pro-PKK constituents. Seeking both to maximize the opportunities provided by access to systemic resources...


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MARC Record
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