Selahattin Demirtaş says Turkey’s opposition has its best ever chance to oust the president in May polls, wrote Ayla Jean Yackley for the Financial Times (FT) in a full-length report on the jailed former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
Demirtaş said Kurdish votes will be “pivotal” in toppling incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is “lagging behind in polls for the first time ever”, reported FT.
“Step by step, Turkey has moved towards an authoritarian regime. If Erdoğan wins this election, Turkey will have transitioned to a new kind of dictatorship,” FT quoted Demirtaş as saying from his cell.
“Erdoğan has managed to stay in power by dividing society… The opposition’s unity as it goes to the polls is not only important to eliminate this polarisation but to win the election,” he continued.
“The Islamist-rooted AKP [Turkey’s ruling party] traditionally attracted about a third of Kurdish voters, but conservative Kurds have cooled towards Erdoğan over the rollback of their earlier political and cultural gains,” explained FT’s Yackley.
The HDP, the third-largest party in Turkey, has not yet joined the alliance of opposition parties that have clubbed together ahead of the 2023 elections to oust Erdoğan. Six opposition parties formed the Nation Alliance, led by presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. However, the HDP has “avoided splintering the opposition vote” by opting out of nominating its own candidate, reported FT.
“Polls indicate Kılıçdaroğlu will fall short of the simple majority needed to clinch the race in the first round, and the HDP’s supporters are seen as a crucial swing vote,” wrote Yackley.
This week, HDP Co-chair Pervin Buldan encouraged voters to unite with the Green Left Party to help secure 100 parliamentary seats in the polls. The HDP is no stranger to having law suits run against it and its members, and in this year’s elections the party will run under Green Left lists while it fights an on-going closure case.
Demirtaş “wields influence over the HDP grassroots through tweets posted by his lawyers,” reported FT, but the government said this year that it was considering ways to bar prisoners from social media, the news agency added.
“I never gave up politics in prison and try to be actively involved in the struggle,” FT quoted Demirtaş as saying. “Erdoğan openly says he will keep me in jail. We’ll see whether he can still say that after the election.”