Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the Green Left Party’s stance on supporting opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in the approaching presidential run-off election remains unchanged, the parties announced on Thursday, despite controversy over a new protocol on the dismissal of pro- Kurdish mayors.
“We will go to the ballot box in full and together we will change the one-man regime,” HDP said, emphasising that the main goal of its election policy is to bring the system to a universal standard that prioritises citizens’ rights and freedoms, social justice, and democracy.
The statement came after Kılıçdaroğlu signed a protocol with Ümit Özdağ, the leader of the far-right Zafer Party, who announced his support for Kılıçdaroğlu on Wednesday, supporting the continuation of the practice of appointing trustees to local governments.
Pro-Kurdish parties, despite their continued support for the opposition’s presidential candidate, took particular issue with clauses in the protocol that allowed for the replacement of mayors with state-appointed trustees, and clauses that had a focus on the repatriation of migrants.
HDP co-chair Pervin Buldan argued that the Republic will not be able to integrate with democracy so long as the issue of dismissing pro- Kurdish mayors remains unresolved.
“We insistently emphasise that those who mortgage the political will of the Kurds through trustees are also those who mortgage the rights and freedoms of all the peoples of Turkey. It is not in the interest of society that the Kurdish question remains unresolved,” she said.
Buldan also stressed that it was wrong and inhumane to turn migrants and refugees into material for political interests. “The responsibility for this picture lies not with the migrants or refugees who are victims, but directly with the government that insists on war policies and instrumentalises refugees for its economic and political rents. The refugee and migrant problem can only be solved by waging a strong peace struggle against war policies,” said Buldan.
“As the HDP and the Green Left Party, we only vouch for the people’s struggle for equality, justice, rights, law and freedom; our only criterion, unwavering commitment is to these values. We repeat our promise that we will not step back from this stance under any circumstances,” she added.
HDP co-chair Mithat Sancar said, “We have expressed our preference to change the palace regime and we continue this preference and policy with the same determination.” He called on all citizens, including voters who did not go to the polls in the first round, to vote and “change the palace regime”.
The protocol’s stance on replacing mayors with trustees caused debate since the aftermath of the 2019 local elections saw many mayors from the HDP detained on terrorism charges and replaced with state-appointed trustees. In their programme, Kılıçdaroğlu’s six-party alliance, the Nation Alliance, had previously pledged to put an end to this practice, emphasising that elected officials should remain in office unless convicted by a court.
The HDP and the Green Left held an emergency meeting following the Özdağ-Kılıçdaroğlu protocol and issued a statement emphasising that the trustee practices were anti-democratic.
It is worth noting that there is a subtle distinction between the current practice and the protocol, as the latter suggests that such convicted local administrators can be dismissed from mayoral positions only by judicial ruling rather than by governmental decree, as has been the case currently.
However, a notable disparity arises between the commitment outlined in the Nation Alliance’s program and the protocol endorsed by Özdağ and Kılıçdaroğlu. According to the Nation Alliance’s program, in the event that the trustee practice is enforced through legislation, the replacement for the affected local official should be an individual elected by the municipal council.
The protocol signed by Özdağ and Kılıçdaroğlu indicates that “the appointment of state officials will persist based on a judicial decision”. This discrepancy raises questions and potential concerns regarding the precise approach to be taken regarding the appointment of officials in such circumstances.