Turkey’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP)’s decision announced over the weekend to run its own candidate in the forthcoming presidential elections has ignited fresh political debate among the country’s opposition.
HDP co-chair Pervin Buldan was the first person to express the intention of the party to nominate its own candidate for the Turkish presidential elections, which will be decisive for the country’s future.
Other HDP officials who spoke to the media over the weekend left the door open to negotiations with the opposition Nation Alliance, also known as the Table of Six, led by the Republican People’s Party (CHP), but stressed that the party will prioritise its principles in making its decisions, and that attitude towards the Kurdish question will serve as a litmus test for any possible joint candidate.
The HDP is not a part of the Nation Alliance, whose presidential candidate will need the support of the Kurdish voters to be able to declare victory over the incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
While many HDP supporters welcomed the party’s decision, defining it as a reasonable strategy, some in the media and on social platforms accused the pro-Kurdish party of serving Erdoğan’s interests.
One of those who criticised the HDP for its decision was the journalist Merdan Yanardağ. “This decision taken without knowing about or discussing the candidate of the Nation Alliance, without insisting on a joint candidate, will only serve the Erdoğan government. A second attempt for a resolution with the reactionaries will end with destruction for all. The HDP will throw its claim to be a party of all Turkey into the waste basket. Very strange,” he said.
The criticism against the HDP was so harsh that, Buldan spoke for a second time on the issue on Sunday: “Why shouldn’t the HDP run with its own candidate, what is the difference between the HDP and you? Isn’t the HDP a political party, does it or does it not have the right to run in elections?”
The debate continued on Monday, with Mithat Sancar, the other co-chair of the HDP, stressing once again that the HDP is open to negotiation if the Nation Alliance wants to discuss a joint candidate.
“If an agreement exists on the basic issue, the will for a joint candidate will prevail and this government will be easily defeated,” Sancar said during an interview with Tele1 TV.
“We are doing what our strategy requires. The doors for negotiation will not be shut once we nominate our candidate. We are not nominating a candidate as blackmail or a threat. We are just trying to keep the promises we have made to the people over the last year and a half.” he added.
Imprisoned former MP and former mayor of Diyarbakır Gültan Kışanak also joined the debate from prison, criticising the opposition parties in the Table of Six for remaining tight-lipped against the injustices that Kurdish politicians have suffered in recent years.
“People should not see the HDP voters simply as ‘votes’ with no political demands of their own,” said the politician, adding also that people should not act as if the HDP voters are obliged to vote for an opposition candidate.
Meanwhile, the CHP took steps to calm the voters of the main opposition. “There is nothing more normal than the HDP nominating its own candidate,” CHP parliamentary group leader Özgür Özel said on Halk TV in the morning.
“They are saying, ‘If the Table of Six candidate is someone compatible with our democratic standards, who will not oppress us the same way in the future, who will not ignore those who vote for us, who will not differentiate or ‘other’ us when governing this country, who believes in the mentality of equal citizenship and feels it is an essential commitment of the Constitution, we can agree on this joint candidate’. That is its Turkish interpretation. A party that receives 6.5 million votes should do that. Nobody should fear it, nobody should interpret it in a different way,” Özel said.