The parliamentary diversity lost in contemporary Turkey

The parliamentary diversity lost in contemporary Turkey
A+ A-
The First Ottoman Parliament had 69 Muslim and 46 non-Muslim deputies of Turkish, Arab, Kurdish, Laz, Vlach, Albanian, Bosnian, Greek, Armenian, Bulgarian, Jewish, or Sephardic identities. Our region has not seen such a varied parliament since then.

In the June 2015 elections, Erdogan's calculations were that the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) would stay at 9.9%, not surpass the electoral threshold, and the Kurdish votes that were lost would be credited to him, paving the way for his presidency.

But that didn't happen in June 2015.

Then the question arose: "Should we form an alliance with the Kurds or with Turkish nationalists?"

And that's when the chess board was overturned.

Even after eight years, public opinion polls still show the same result.

Kurdish votes are still crucial...

Erdogan may have gained eight years, but these were eight more years lost for democracy and the country.

The situation remains critical. No electoral bloc — neither Erdogan’s nor the opposition’s — can win if they ignore the identities of the voters.

Kilicdaroglu made a bold move by abandoning the norm of concealing one’s Kurdish/Alevi identity.

Will this result in a check mate?

We shall wait and see what the countermove will be in this round of chess.

Krikor Odyan Efendi and Mithat Pasha, the authors of our first legitimate constitution, which was in effect between 1876-23 (even though it was suspended by Abdulhamit for 30 years).

At one point in time, being from the Black Sea region was just as problematized an identity as Kurdishness is today.

In 1968, during the student protests and university occupations, we had appointed a Kurd as the president and a person from the Black Sea region as their assistant in the student council. In our defense committee, we had Deniz Gezmis, and next to him was with Masis Kurkcugil!*

In this election, however, there is no Armenian, Greek, Jewish, or Assyrian person who is in position feasible for electoral victory.

This, despite the fact that in these lands, the 1876 constitution authored hand in hand by Mithat Pasha and Krikor Odyan yielded a [diverse] parliament. In this region, we had managed to produce a constitution before the Russian Empire and the Austrian monarchy.

The first Chamber of Deputies, which was the first Ottoman parliament, served from March 18 to June 28, 1877. The Chamber had 69 Muslim members and 46 non-Muslim deputies of Turkish, Arab, Kurdish, Laz, Vlach, Albanian, Bosnian, Greek, Armenian, Bulgarian, Jewish, or Sephardic identities.

If I am to present an example of each:

Zatinoglu Yanoko Efendi from Aydin,

Yozo Efendi from Bosnia and Herzegovina,

Sarraf Avram Aciman Efendi from Derssaadet (Istanbul),

Osep Kazazyan Efendi from Diyarbakir,

Rupen Efendi from Edirne,

Halil Rami Efendi from Crete,

Degirmencioglu Simonaki Efendi from Konya,

Baghdadi Jew Menahem Efendi,

Bizdikoglu Kirkor Efendi from Adana,

Catholic Altintop Mikael Efendi from Ankara,

Hallacyan Efendi from Erzurum,

Pavlidi Efendi from Huvendigar (Bursa),

Karaca Manokyan Efendi from Aleppo,

Seyid Abdullah from the Hejaz,

Avram Efendi from Thessaloniki,

Angeli Efendi from Shkoder,

Paso Efendi from Kosovo,

Agop Sahinyan Efendi from Sivas,

Nikola Nakkas Efendi from the Province of Syria,

Suleyman Kapudan Efendi from Triplo in the West (Trablus Garp),

Yorgaki Karvonidi Efendi from Trabzon,

Tolcili Stefaniki Efendi from the Province of Danube,

Argiri Kantarci Efendi from Yanya,

Seyyid Mehmed Efendi from the Province of Yemen.

No one had been elected from the Basra and Van provinces, which is a matter worth scholarly inquiry.

Our region has not seen such a varied parliament since then.

Perhaps the despotic Russian Tsardom’s perception of this constitutional formation as a threatening element led to their starting the 1877 war, for if a constitutional regime was established, there would be no need for despots acting as "protectors.”

The attack of the Russian Tsar gifted the despotic Sultan Abdulhamit a 30-year dictatorship. Both leaders grew quite close afterwards…

I send my respects to Mithat Pasha and Krikor Odyan, the fathers of the 1876 Constitution. Mithat Pasha was strangled to death on May 8, 1884, in the Taif Fortress of Arabia, where he was in exile. Kirkor Odyan, who had to flee the country in 1880, died 3 years later on August 6, 1887 in Paris.

Baghdad MP Menahem Efendi, Thessaloniki MP Istefan Tadi Efendi, Sivas MP Agop Sahinyan Pasha

* Deniz Gezmis was a Marxist-Leninist activist and student leader in the late 1960s in Turkey. After being arrested and tried by the Turkish government, Gezmis was sentenced to death and was hanged on May 6, 1972. Masis Kurkcugil is a Marxist theoretician and political activist involved in the 1968 student movement.