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An Interview with Selina Doghan on Turkey’s Elections

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Selina Doghan is an Armenian member of the Turkish Parliament representing the Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Interview by Arevelk.am, edited by the Armenian Assembly of America.

1. Can you comment on these elections, especially since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) secured a surprising victory? Do you think that the results mean a victory for AKP?

Since the last elections, we passed through an extraordinary period. The president didn’t accept or respect the electors’ will and forced the public into a re-election. He exhausted the alternative coalition and used cruel methods to regain sole power and not share it.

We lost around 900 people in various attacks in the last 4 months. The economy is suffering. We couldn’t even mourn together after the massacres because part of society is demonized against the other.

It is important to note that the rule of law is seldom respected.  Freedom of expression, freedom of the press, the nonpartisan status of the presidency of the republic are hardly respected.  All this was done for the election of 400 deputies. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan personally confessed it in a TV program. Only 20 % of the public has any trust in the judicial system. AKP has managed to sway the public opinion to gain votes. It wasn’t hard for them since they are dominating almost the half media and the juridical system in Turkey.

After all the attacks, they managed to lump the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Democratic Union Party (PYD), Islamic State of Iraq and Damascus (IŞID), and People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the same magic box. They strongly emphasized religion and nationalism in their speech. The average AKP voter believes that PKK is the reason behind the Ankara massacre. They aren’t even questioning what IŞID is looking for in our country and how that would put our lives at risk. The AKP took hostage society’s mind and moral conscience.

They attacked media groups and twitter accounts, imprisoning whoever criticized President Erdoğan in Turkey. They pumped hate speech to all “others” and encouraged illegal activity by the police against all types of oppositional manifestation, sometimes including peaceful demonstrations.

So, yes. It is a big victory for them because they managed to apply the illusion very successfully. They are pretending that coalitions are cruel; without a government with one party as sole power Turkey would live in a chaos; and the economy is suffering because AKP is not the governing party.

They didn’t even expect such a result themselves. None of the investigative companies could assume this result. In addition to this, the Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) understandable policy served them well.

2. After the elections, will AKP be able to form a government alone? Will it put an end to the political crisis which started on June 7?

Yes, according to the arithmetical result, they have enough votes to govern alone. But fortunately, not enough to establish the presidential system. If AKP doesn’t handle the solution process regarding the Kurds question, I’m afraid in the short term we won’t reach a convenient solution to reestablish the rule of law and the democratic mechanisms again.

3. What projects and plans do you have, as an Armenian parliament member from the CHP party, especially now that you are one of the Armenians who, for the first time, entered the Turkish parliament?

My challenges remain the same, actually. As an Armenian deputy, of course, I will fight against all kinds of discrimination and human rights violations. But, I wouldn’t like to be limited to my identity. I’m Armenian, but a deputy of Turkey. So, my responsibility concerns every citizen in Turkey. In this sense, I feel that my duty is harder now because unfortunately the polarization increased deeply in the last 4 months. Today, whoever is not an AKP supporter is considered an “other.”

4. Armenian-Turkish relations have been in a coma for a long time. In this context, do you see positive signs? Do you expect a positive change in the relations?

Please let me correct your question. Turkey’s foreign policy is in a coma!  The European Union process has been almost frozen, as well as our relations with the Middle East.

As a deputy of the opposition party, my duty is to establish positive bridges between two people. As you may remember, the first day after being officially elected I encouraged Turkey not to demonize the Armenian diaspora. They are Turkey’s diaspora, as the prime minister mentioned on his way back from Armenia, and they are not our enemies. They are Anatolian people in a Turkish nostalgia. We should find a way to gain their trust.  As CHP, we even inserted in our election book to return nationalities to those who lost it as a result of forced migrations. Also, I am ready to work for the borders to be opened.

My candidature and existence in both the party and the parliament made a positive change in the party and towards public opinion. As long as we communicate with each other and respect our fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression, we can make big changes in policy.

5. Do you think that the clashes with PKK and other organizations will continue after the elections? Or will there be a solution?

AKP used the PKK attacks against the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and tried to marginalize them. As a result, those HDP voters who used to be AKP, CHP or even MHP voters doubted the Kurds practicing civil politics in parliament. In addition to all the facts I mentioned above, electors voted for “stability.”

So it all depends how the AKP will handle the solution and peace process again this time.

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