Mithat Sancar, co-chair of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), said on Monday that his party was ready to support a joint presidential candidate, if an agreement on a roadmap for Turkey’s democratic transformation could be achieved.
Sancar appeared live on Habertürk TV on Monday night, moments after the six-party Nation Alliance announced Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), as their presidential candidate in the 14 May elections.
Sancar answered questions from veteran journalist Fatih Altaylı on whether the HDP and the HDP-led left wing alliance will support the Nation Alliance’s candidate on 14 May, or race with their own candidate.
First Sancar stressed how the 6 February earthquakes, that created massive destruction in Turkey’s south, has altered the political scene in the country.
“Following the earthquake, unfortunately after a painful incidence, there is an apparent willingness in the society for change,” Sancar said. “Democratic change, a change for justice. A change for human rights, humanitarian values. This is very strong in the society. Everyone should refrain from any kind of attitude, manoeuvre, operation that can harm this willingness,” he said.
The politician recalled that the HDP shared a declaration stating its position on a joint presidential candidate in September 2021. According to this declaration, the pro-Kurdish party -and the third largest party in parliament- was ready to support a joint candidate if this candidate was decided through a transparent process, and if the future of the country was discussed through open dialogue.
“But, a long time passed, no positive development happened, no steps were taken in that direction,” Sancar added.
As a result, the HDP announced on 25 October that it will run with its own candidate in presidential elections and began talks on the presidential candidacy with the party’s executive commissions as well as during consultations with parties in the left-wing Labour and Freedom Alliance.
“If the earthquake had not happened, we had more or less completed our preparations for fielding our own candidate. But, following the earthquake, a new situation has emerged,” Sancar said.
“This system and this government is responsible for this earthquake. And, under this circumstances, we started a process of reassessment regarding our efforts for fielding our own candidate. In other words, we started reassessing whether to run with our candidate in presidential elections,” Sancar said.
“That means we put on the table the option of supporting a joint candidate instead of nominating ours, in case there is a possibility for new developments that will open the way to get rid of this government in elections, for us to move forward with the political powers and the opposition towards this direction,” the politician said.
“Since the destruction caused by the earthquake is so obvious and it is apparent that the government is fully responsible for this situation, we cannot behave as if nothing has happened. Because we are in essence responsible to people living in this country, to the society,” Sancar said, underlining that HDP will take into account the fact that the Nation Alliance has now decided its own candidate in the party’s ongoing reassessment process.
“Of course the decision whether we will field our own candidate or not will be made by our commissions and through meetings with our alliance partners,” he added.
“First of all, let me say congratulations and let me add this: We are waiting for him [Kılıçdaroğlu] to have a meeting with us,” Sancar said referring to the CHP leader’s candidacy.
When Altaylı asked whether his party will support Kılıçdaroğlu in presidential elections, Sancar once again repeated the importance of open dialogue, and the principles and methods HDP will use in negotiations.
Sancar noted that the HDP had already declared the potential support of a joint opposition candidate, if an agreement could be reached. “Otherwise, the option is clear. We will field our candidate,” Sancar said.
“Once again, congratulations to Kılıçdaroğlu. We expect him to visit our party headquarters to discuss,” Sancar said once more, stressing that open dialogue between the Nation Alliance, the HDP, and allies is essential to retain their support.
Altaylı asked Sancar what the party’s demands will be, whether they want to negotiate with Kılıçdaroğlu in possible ministerial positions or develop a joint understanding.
“Our target is democracy, justice and freedom. Essentially, we want to discuss principles,” Sancar said. “We will talk about what principles this presidency will be built on, how the transitional process be designed, and what things should be done urgently during that process,” he added.
Almost all opposition parties in Turkey agree on the need to abolish the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s version of the presidential system. Opposition parties argue that the country needs to establish a new strengthened parliamentary system, but such a change will require a transition period in which parties decide on details of this new system and complete the necessary work in parliament.
Sancar said they expected Kılıçdaroğlu to visit all parties in the Labour and Freedom Alliance.
“Then we sit and evaluate the results of those meetings with the powers in our alliance,” he said.
Altaylı asked also whether the HDP expected any promises for a resolution to the Kurdish question in those meetings.
“At the moment we do not have an attitude of imposing our party programme and expecting it to be accepted. What we see as an urgent necessity is the democratic transformation of Turkey,” Sancar said.
“We are experienced enough to know that such severe problems cannot be solved from one day to the other. But there is a need to agree on a roadmap that covers basic issues. Of course, democracy is the most urgent one,” he added.
Selahattin Demirtaş, the jailed former co-chair of the HDP, also congratulated Kılıçdaroğlu and wished him success via Twitter.
Demirtaş shared Sancar’s invitation to Kılıçdaroğlu for a meeting at HDP headquarters. “We are expecting him to come to the HDP,” Demirtaş said.