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The Peace and Democracy’s Party Proposal for a Solution to the Kurdish Issue

Although 90 years have passed, the republic proclaimed in the aftermath of the independence achieved as a result of a joint struggle waged by Anatolian peoples in the 1920s has not taken on a democratic character.

In essence, the administrative conception that ignores cultural differences — particularly those of Kurdish people — and yet adopts the elimination of cultures through assimilation as official ideology, is devoid of providing solutions to any specific social problem. The current practices that aim at the imposition of uniformity on society through a monolithic understanding of state administration do not respond to social needs. Rather, they stand as the primary cause of prevailing problems and crises.

Yet, even in countries such as France, which is presented as the most powerful model of a nation-state based on ethnicity, the eventual recognition of the impossibility of carrying along with the existing nation-state system has led to the abolition of barriers to free self-expression of different languages and cultures, and these cultures have been taken under the protection of the law. These comprehensive reforms continue to be made. In France, the period of autonomous government that began in 1982 became constitutionally secured with amendments to the first article of the country’s constitution undertaken on 17 March 2003, which removed the expression “unitary state” and inserted the sentence “[France] shall be organized on a decentralized basis.”

In Europe, where the conceptual framework of local democracy has developed quickly, it’s argued that the benefits which have been secured by efforts undertaken and agreements accepted in the past must be developed much further. Yet Turkey, a candidate for EU membership and one of the first countries to sign and ratify in its parliament the European Charter of Local Self-Government, is the only country which has filed an objection to the document’s article on freedom of organization.

European Union member states issued a declaration concerning the empowerment of local administration on 15 October 2007, when ministers responsible for local and regional administration were brought together in the city of Valencia in Spain. The Valencia Declaration, which consists of seven articles, encourages democratic participation and public ethics, regional autonomy, progress in the area of best practices in administration, a document on local innovation and good administration, activities as part of local democracy week in Europe, and “looking to the future.”

The Valencia Declaration’s section on local self-government recognizes representative and participatory democracy not as alternatives to each other, but instead as models that complete each other. The Declaration sees regional administrative units as important elements that enrich democracy in Europe.

The Declaration’s section on “Regional Self-Government” argues that all over Europe local administrations need to be empowered both financially and with regard to authority, cites the growing importance of regions especially within the framework of the European Union, and regards their contribution to the formation of EU policy as positive.

Compared to contemporary democracies where problems are discussed and solved in localities by the people encountering them, the rigid, centralist, administrative structure of Turkey, which is remote from the localities, manifests a deadlocked image with its slow, cumbersome characteristics. The central government in Ankara, facing many different cultural, social and economic problems from east to west and from north to south has not only been unable to generate the will to bring about a solution to these problems, but has been structurally exhausted to a significant extent.

On this basis, the 2011 BDP party congress noted that the alteration of the political-administrative structure in Turkey through the undertaking of a comprehensive reform is inevitable. Considering many contemporary debates, world experiences and the current state of affairs in the Middle East, it is evident that statehood in general and statehood based on ethnicity in particular brings suppression rather than democracy and freedom to people.

The BDP has presented the model of Democratic Autonomy, which is predicated upon the gaining of autonomy of all diversities on matters of free self-expression and the rendering of voice to the people in all localities protecting the integrity of the country. Democratic autonomy, which also means democratic self-governance, encompasses the essentials of a Democratic Republic.

The Democratic Autonomy model:

  • Envisages a fundamental reform in order to achieve democratization in the political and administrative structure of Turkey;
  • Recognizing that problems will not be resolved solely by changing the state system, predicates itself upon the self-sufficiency of society as a whole;
  • For methods that will develop solutions to problems, departs from an understanding that advocates the empowerment of the people in processes of discussion and decision making as a method for problem solving;
  • Defends the principle of democratic participation for incorporating people into processes of decision making and establishes itself upon the system of assemblies in all local units;
  • Rather than a purely “ethnic” and “territorial” conception of autonomy, democratic autonomy defends a regional and local structure through which cultural differences are able to freely express themselves;
  • The “Flag” and “Official Language” are valid for the whole “Nation of Turkey,” yet democratic autonomy also envisages the establishment of democratic self-governance by each region and autonomous unit with their own colours and symbols;
  • Democratic autonomous administration is organized on the basis of “regional assemblies” and those who carry out duties in these assemblies will be known as “regional assembly representatives.” Assemblies individually elect both assembly chairmen and executive council members, who shall fulfil duties in their respective areas of responsibility. The chairperson and members of the executive council are responsible for the execution of the decisions taken by the assembly;
  • Each of the regions is named after the specific name of the region or of the largest province within the area of responsibility of the regional assembly;
  • In the democratic autonomy model, governors of provinces are responsible for the enforcement of the decisions taken by both the central government and the regional executive council. Provincial town organizations of ministries submit to the same procedure. Other administrative structures such as the Provincial General Assembly, municipalities and elected heads of neighborhoods (mukhtar) retain their existence.

The 2011 BDP congress adopted Democratic Autonomy as the most rational model for the solution of different social problems ranging from common issues experienced by all provinces such as Istanbul, Antalya, Adana, Samsun, Edirne and Kars, to unique, local issues within a modern and democratic state structure. In order to bring Democratic Autonomy to life, efforts to develop a new constitution must be undertaken together with a comprehensive reform in the country’s political and administrative structure.

The implementation of Democratic Autonomy, which requires joint elaboration with the establishment of civilian, self-managed organizations of society, is essentially an open model of the concept of ‘less state, more society, fewer restrictions, more freedom.’ It is for this reason that Democratic Autonomy connotes a more functional, democratic and participatory system that is able to formulate solutions to its own problems, utilizing the intermediation of civilian and independent institutions, rather than waiting for the state to solve all of society’s problems.

The BDP belives that with this model an important milestone will be reached in the construction of the Democratic Republic. In this way, the democratization that hasn’t been carried out since the republic’s first milestone, namely its establishment, will be brought about.