Middle East

Terrorist PKK's so-called election plan in N. Syria postponed by pressure from Türkiye: Experts

Experts' assessments come in online panel to discuss the terror group's so-called attempts to hold local elections in northern Syria

Can Efesoy, Sümeyye Dilara Dinçer, Ahmet Karaahmet  | 14.06.2024 - Update : 14.06.2024
Terrorist PKK's so-called election plan in N. Syria postponed by pressure from Türkiye: Experts


The terrorist PKK/YPG was forced to postpone plans for so-called elections in occupied northern Syria due to severe pressure put by Türkiye, experts at an online panel said Wednesday. 

Participants at the "PKK/YPG's Illegitimate Local Elections" panel, organized by the Turkish Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), said that local oppositions, including Arab tribes and the Kurdish National Council, also opposed the so-called elections.

Researcher Can Acun said the terrorist organization gained power by taking advantage of the chaos after the Syrian revolution.

He emphasized that the PKK terrorist group is backed and organized by Syrian intelligence and noted that the terrorist organization occupied Afrin, Ayn al-Arab, and Al-Jazira regions following the revolution.

He also noted that the terrorist organization has established dominance over vast swathes across northern and eastern Syria with US support.

Acun said the terrorist PKK planned a so-called election to transfer its "de facto" control into the legal and political realm.

However, Türkiye’s pressure and demographic realities thwarted the plan, he added.

"Local opposition dynamics such as Arab tribes and the Kurdish National Council opposed the (so-called) elections."

Acun added that a US intervention also played a role in the postponement.

- Existence must be challenged

Türkiye should take decisive steps against the terrorist group PKK's supposed autonomous administration, Acun said.

"(Türkiye) should make the PKK's existence difficult by investing in demographic realities and military moves," he added.

He also pointed out terrorist PKK’s attempts to finance itself with oil revenues and said: "Türkiye's punitive operations have severely diminished the PKK's economic capacity."

Acun emphasized that Ankara should continue its military operations to prevent the terrorist group from creating an economic model.

- Democratic cover

Researcher Kutluhan Gorucu told the panel that the PKK has been trying to build a so-called statehood in Syria for many years.

"They issued a municipal law and a municipal election law for local elections. A closer examination of these laws shows that the PKK is trying to give its organizational system a democratic cover.

"Articles like mayors must be members of the PYD would ensure the elections remain under PKK’s control," Gorucu said.

He pointed out that although the so-called polls have over 5,000 candidates, none of their names were made public.

"The PKK claims that there are 3 million voters, suggesting they assume the population is nearly 6 million, something local sources say is impossible," he said.

Gorucu added that the Syrian Kurdish National Council did not participate in the process and those who did, were controlled by the PKK.

"Although the PKK tries to create the impression of a multi-party system, it ensures that only the candidates and parties it approves join the elections."

He also highlighted that the postponement of the so-called elections stemmed from Türkiye's pressure and local dynamics.

"In the regions controlled by the PKK, the Arab population is around 85% while the Kurdish population is between 10-15%.

"This demographic structure reduces the PKK's chances of winning in a truly democratic election," Gorucu said.

He added that the PKK aims for international legitimacy and wants to consolidate its control in Syria through the so-called election, adding that Türkiye's decisive stance and demographic realities prevented this process.

- Türkiye's regional operations

Gorucu noted that Ankara demonstrated its military capacity and effectiveness with Operation Spring Shield in Syria and said: "This operation reveals how far Türkiye has advanced in the Syrian arena and increased its military capabilities.

"By conducting military operations up to 30-40 kilometers (about 18.6 to 24.8 miles) inside Syria, Türkiye holds an important strategic advantage against the PKK. Similar operations are also being carried out in Iraq," he said.

He underlined operations 30 km (about 18.6 miles) inside Kurdish-populated areas of Syria will greatly reduce the terrorist PKK's effectiveness and make it easier for Ankara to achieve strategic goals.

The Syrian regime has caused serious destruction in the regions it controls and people living in these regions continue to migrate, Gorucu said.

“Türkiye should support the stabilization and reconstruction process in Syria, otherwise it will continue to face migration and other problems.

"Without stabilization in regime-controlled areas, it will be difficult for Türkiye to solve these problems," he said.

He added that Ankara must strengthen its position in Syria if the US withdraws from the region, saying that “when the US withdraws from Syria, as it did in Iraq, those left behind would be in a difficult situation.”

The PKK maintains economic and military cooperation with the Syrian regime as well, he said and added that oil sales and other financial ties help the terrorist organization’s existence.

He underlined that Türkiye's military operations against the terrorist PKK in Syria and Iraq are important to realize strategic goals in the region.

"The reconstruction and stability of Syria is critical for Türkiye's national security and economic interests," he said.

- PKK's so-called elections and general political situation in region

Researcher Omer Behram Ozdemir said there is no democratic political culture or electoral tradition in the region, emphasizing that this shows the so-called election plan of the terrorist PKK is just a mise-en-scene.

Recalling the region’s demographics, Ozdemir said that it reduces the PKK's chances of winning a democratic election.

"For the elections to be transparent and fair, a reliable census must be conducted, but this is impossible in Syria," he added.

Referring to the role of the US and European countries in the so-called elections, Ozdemir noted: "It is stated that the US is encouraging the PKK for the elections.

"However, this support cannot create a long-term sustainable structure. The PKK's effort to gain legitimacy through local elections is possible with the strategic support of the US."

He said that this support by the US stems from their hostility toward Türkiye and that European governments also support the terrorist PKK through the control of radical elements and refugee crises.

Underlining that the terrorist PKK has failed in its efforts to establish a long-term state structure in Syria, Ozdemir said that the terror group is mostly military and security-based in the region and has failed to build a civilian administration.

- Ankara's strategic position

Ozdemir underscored that Türkiye has made military and political moves to reduce the terrorist PKK's influence in the region. He also said that Türkiye's defense industry and military capacity are gradually increasing, which is a deterrent for the terrorist group and its supporters.

He said Türkiye's reduction of its economic vulnerabilities and increase in its military operation capability has enabled it to fight more effectively against the terrorist PKK, and referred to the role of the regime.

"The PKK is strong in some cities such as Qamishli, but generally it is effective in areas with small populations and limited influence.

"The regime uses the PKK to crush the opposition and the PKK is strong in non-Arab areas," said Ozdemir, adding that the regime poses a threat to Türkiye.

In its nearly 40-year terror campaign against Türkiye, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Türkiye, the US, and the EU – has been responsible for the deaths of over 40,000 people, including women, children, and infants. The YPG is its Syrian offshoot.

He added that Iran’s allies could also take over the terrorist PKK's function.

He noted that Türkiye is in an indirect conflict with Iran and others in the fight against the PKK. The Syrian regime, which has lost its administrative capability, needs a serious reconstruction process, adding that the regime is trying to survive through illegal activities such as drugs and human trafficking.

Underlining that this situation will cause security problems in neighboring countries such as Jordan, Ozdemir said, "Arab countries have entered a normalization process with the Syrian regime, but this process will not be successful with the current structure of the regime."

He emphasized that Jordan has suffered due to drug and human trafficking coming from Syria. "Jordan has realized that normalization with Syria is not beneficial and has stopped this process," he said.

Stating that the Syrian regime survives with external support and cannot realize a serious change on its own, Ozdemir further noted that "the US and Europe avoid establishing a direct relationship with the Syrian regime.

"Arab countries may not succeed in their efforts to normalize ties with the regime," he said.

*Writing by Serdar Dincel from Istanbul

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