The extreme right politics in Turkey is a strange entity. Unlike many other European countries, there is still not a radical right party that has the ability to pass the legal election threshold and get into the parliament. One party that can be labeled as extreme right in Turkey is Hak ve Esitlik Partisi, HEPAR (Rights and Equality Party) that uses the Anatolian Eagle as her emblem. The founder of the party Osman Pamukoglu is a retired general from Turkish Armed Forces. He actively served against the PKK during 1990s in Southeastern Turkey and refers to military solution to Kurdish Problem in his political speeches.
When general elections were due in June 2011, Hepar was said to receive slightly more than 8% in the opinion polls. However, they could only receive 0.2% of the national votes, and did not even manage to get 1% in Thrace, where the party finds its strongest supporters. The party has a strong stand on bringing death penalty back, fight against terrorism and Kurdish question, Euro-skepticism, and politicization of judiciary in favor of the governing Justice and Development Party that has been in power for a decade.
Leader of the party, Pamukoglu is the only known figure and sets the party agenda by himself without much attention by the media –which he criticizes as being a major conspiracy to erase his image as a “national war hero”. When the party got united with the Yeni Parti (New Party) of imprisoned journalist Tuncay Ozkan, for a short period of time general support for the party increased slightly.
The pre-election enthusiasm of the Hepar supporters that they might actually try a little harder and get into the parliament went in vain when the rumors that Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) –the main nationalist party- might be out of the parliament due to election threshold problems appeared. The fact that while trying to have a second –and even a stronger- nationalist party in the parliament, the extreme right supporters could have been left with none. This scenario would leave a very strong governing AKP with the opposition of Republican People’s Party (CHP) and mainly Kurdish-ethnic-based Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in the Grand Assembly. Thus, Hepar supporters had to act strategically in order to avoid any of the liberal, left-leaning or minority based politics in the parliament.
Just like many extreme right supporters opting for MHP, the fact that most mainstream parties welcome extreme rightist ideas and politicians makes it hard for one party to attract all nationalist votes single handedly. Most of major parties in Turkey have embraced politicians that have extreme right tendencies, including the leftist parties. Actually, Democratic Leftist Party (DSP) had declared that they would be eager to join forces with Hepar for 2011 elections.
The Jacobean roots of modern Turkish politics have given the Turkish politicians a discourse that promises success to any party as long as they can obtain a kind of majority; in order to do that all major parties have employed radical manners towards their opponents or towards more marginal groups. Traditionally, MHP served as center of nationalist votes. Yet, occasionally the governing AKP try to attract them through popular support for death penalty, illegalizing abortion, referring to national religious practices, welcoming anti-semitic voices in the party, etc.
Similar to AKP and MHP, CHP also visits nationalist waters from time to time. The most recent occasion is when CHP’s Izmir deputy, Birgul Ayman Guler said in the parliament “Kurds cannot be equal to Turks” during her speech opposing the bill that would legalize the right to defend one’s self in courts in whichever language one feels most comfortable. Although CHP is member of International Socialist and claims to have social-democratic roots, major support from within the party to this statement caused another deputy to resign from his party, which caused further uproar from the nationalist members of CHP.
Most recently, BDP’s Sirri Sakik, in reply to CHP’s Birgul Ayman Guler’s statements uttered the words “We the Kurds have been in Anatolia first, whoever came after us will know their place and respect us in this country.” These words were uttered by a supposedly socialist politician in a country that welcomed the Sephardic Jews, Polish emigrates, millions of refugees from all over Balkans and Caucasus. Although he later on apologized for his words, the logic of this statement already became popular among millions of his supporters as a practical populist idea, no matter how much it is repeated that it does not represent the party’s ideology.
Some Hepar supporters are disillusioned with their party, mainly because it does not seem to be gaining any success in any poll. Yet extreme right ideology as it is in Turkey, already seems to be the dominant discourse with all major parties embracing more than one aspect of a typical extreme rightist agenda. The tense situation resulting from opposing identities within the country does not seem to cool off with all actors escalating the tension.