I would be honoured to be a joint presidential candidate for the opposition, but for obvious reasons I am not that candidate at the moment, said Selahattin Demirtaş, former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), in a letter he penned from prison.
Demirtaş said it would not be proper for him to suggest a named joint presidential candidate for the opposition parties, in a letter to FOX TV’s morning news programme on Friday.
The jailed politician said he nevertheless hoped that the opposition parties would field a joint candidate who would win in the first round of the presidential elections, currently set for 2023.
This joint candidate should be mature and democratic enough to tackle the differences in Turkey’s highly polarised society, according to Demirtaş, who has been imprisoned since 2016.
The candidate should also possess the competence and the experience necessary to signal to society that when elected s/he would be president for everybody, Demirtaş said.
“Moreover, it should be someone who is able to explain in a simple way what problems will be solved with what concrete projects; it should be someone who has the acumen to be constantly in dialogue with society instead of engaging in polemic with rivals, someone who has strong nerves,” Demirtaş wrote.
Prioritising common sense, with the experience to guide Turkey’s transition back to a parliamentary system, being capable of taking lessons from the mistakes of the last century and being open to change, as well as being sensitive about rights, freedoms and secularism are other characteristics Demirtaş listed as necessary for the opposition’s ideal candidate.
“You will understand who this person is, if I add that he should be able to play bağlama,” jokingly added Demirtaş, who plays the Anatolian string instrument masterfully and has released his own compositions.
“Of course, joking aside, I would be honoured to be this joint candidate but for obvious reasons, I will not be a candidate in this election,” he said.
“I know there are candidates who are close to meeting these criteria for the upcoming elections,” he added.
Demirtaş stood as the HDP’s presidential candidate for the first time in 2014, using the slogan “We will not make you president,” against Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then prime minister of Turkey. He won 9.76 percent of the vote and gained popularity among Turkey’s urban young, managing to overcome prejudices linked to country’s Kurdish issue.
He was nominated as the HDP’s presidential candidate for a second time in 2018, when he was in prison. This time he gained 8.4 percent of the vote, despite running a limited campaign, mostly reaching his voters through letters and messages he sent from prison.
Since then Demirtaş has been expressing his views on Turkey’s politics regularly by reaching out to the general public or to certain journalists via similar letters.
Many analysts in Turkey believe that the opposition parties have a chance to end Erdoğan’s 20-year rule in the upcoming elections, and polls show that Kurdish votes will play a pivotal role in determining the future of Turkey’s politics.