The Fifth Congress of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has begun in Turkish capital Ankara on Sunday with tens of thousands attending the congress.
The congress is of extraordinary significance as the HDP is currently faced with a legal case in the Turkish Constitutional Court that may result in the party’s closure and a ban on hundreds of prominent political figures.
The congress hall was decorated with banners that read: ‘Democracy Alliance will win’, ‘Free Press cannot be silenced’, ‘Peace and resolution over war and isolation’, ‘Not a monolithic regime but a democratic republic’, ‘Democratic resolution of the Kurdish Question’, ‘Not hunger and poverty but equal distribution’, ‘Our purple line is the co-chair system’ (in reference to the colour symbolising women and the party’s system of electing a woman and a man for each executive post), ‘We will not give up Istanbul Convention’.
1,050 delegates will vote in the congress to elect 180 representatives (50 of them substitutes), including the co-chairs of the party.
Among the guests were representatives of various Alevi organisations, Armenian newspaper Agos’s author Pakrat Estukyan, the chair of the Federation of Assyrian Associations, officials of the Initiative for Circassian Democratic Congress (JINEPS), representative of the Georgian Culture Centre and the chair of the Roma People’s Rights Association.
Representatives of almost all left-wing parties in Turkey also attended, including pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP), Labour Party (EMEP), Workers’ Party of Turkey (TIP), Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP), Social Freedom Party (TÖP) and the People’s Houses.
Pervin Buldan, HDP’s co-chair, strongly criticised the Turkish administration’s policy of constant aggression and conflict in the Middle East and its attacks against the Kurdish people.
She said in her opening address:
“The Middle East and Syria will not be shaped by your hostility against Kurds, but by the will of the Kurdish people in favour of co-existence, and through the democratic alliances it forms with the peoples it lives side by side.”
Mithat Sancar, HDP’s other co-chair, criticised rumours that were recently spread by the government media that Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), may be allowed some visits after a severe isolation of over three years, and play a part in a possible process for the resolution of the 40-year old armed conflict between Turkish forces and the PKK.
“We warn the AKP government; do not play games on the isolation of Mr. Öcalan, do not use such a sensitive issue for your objectives for power. Do not speak on behalf of İmralı, do not mislead the public, or create false agendas. Let the public know what Öcalan thinks.”
HDP: Third largest party in the Turkish parliament
HDP received 11.7% of the general vote in the last general elections in 2018, securing 67 deputies, and is currently the third largest group in the Turkish parliament.
It also played a vital role in the local elections in 2019 as it supported the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in big cities like Istanbul, Ankara, Antalya, Adana and Mersin, enabling it to win Istanbul and Ankara back after the uninterrupted election victories of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in these two cities for 25 years.