Three ethnic Armenian candidates representing different political parties, including the rulingAKP, have been elected to Turkey’s parliament in which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will no longer have a loyal majority.
Erdogan’s party is projected to control less than half of the 550 seats in the new Grand National Assembly elected on Sunday. One of the AKP seats will be held by Markar Esayan, a Turkish-Armenian journalist with the pro-government newspaper “Yeni Safak.”
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which came in second in the polls, also has an ethnic Armenian among its newly elected deputies: Selina Dogan. She is a lawyer based in Istanbul.
The third Turkish-Armenian parliamentarian, Garo Paylan, will represent the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which is widely credited with ending 13 years of single-party rule in Turkey. According to preliminary vote results, it won some 80 parliament seats.
The HDP is the only mainstream Turkish party that has recognized the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide. Its charismatic leader, Selahattin Demirtas, stands for an official Turkish recognition of the Armenian genocide. Demirtas has also acknowledged the Kurds’ complicity in the slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenians.
During the election campaign, Erdogan repeatedly accused the HDP of enjoying secret support by “the Armenian lobby.”
Both the AKP and the CHP stand by the official Turkish version of events, which says that Ottoman Armenians died in much smaller numbers and as a result of internal strife, rather thana premeditated government policy. Their ethnic Armenian deputies are unlikely to publicly question this stance.
A handful of pro-establishment ethnic Armenians who had served in the Turkish parliament in the 1930-1960s also did not challenge the Turkish policy of genocide denial.
Armenians were also represented in the short-lived parliaments of the Ottoman Empire, including the legislatures formed after the 1908 Young Turk Revolution. Parliamentarians were among more than 200 Armenian intellectual and political leaders who were rounded up by the Ottoman regime on April 24, 1915, the day marked by the Armenians as the official start of the genocide. Most of those leaders were subsequently executed.