Turkey’s Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is aware that it will play a key role in upcoming elections and is acting with a sense of responsibility towards all people living in the country, the HDP’s co-chair said on Saturday.
“We are aware that elections are being discussed. The position of the HDP is on everybody’s agenda,” co-chair Mithat Sancar said, speaking to the party’s executive committee.
“All our people can see the destruction caused by the government’s rhetoric of hate and discrimination,” added the top official of the third largest political party in the Turkish parliament.
Sancar advised other individuals and political parties who take an accusatory and discriminatory tone towards the HDP to “look in the mirror before talking”. “They should have a good look in the mirror, they should decide on their words after seeing the reflection,” he continued.
Sancar’s comments came after a week of heated debate around the HDP, instigated by statements from officials of other opposition parties, which according to some signalled a deep crack in an election alliance established by six of these parties.
Turkey is scheduled to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in 2023, but the possibility of a snap election is always on the agenda. Any opposition candidate would need to gain the basic majority of the votes in the two-round presidential elections if they are to end the 20-year rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Recent polls show that although opposition parties are increasing their share of the vote, they are still unable to attract a large portion of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) votes, despite the sharp economic downturn and an inflation rate that has hit a 24-year high, reaching 80 percent as of last month.
According to the same polls, the HDP vote stands at 8-12 percent, which implies that Turkey’s Kurdish voters will be kingmakers in the next elections, just as in the latest local elections in 2019, when opposition candidates won the mayoral seats in the Turkish capital of Ankara and in Istanbul.
“With 10 months before a vote, the question of whether the HDP and other anti-Erdoğan parties can agree is critical given that polls show they have their best shot ever to topple the president and his AKP,” Reuters said on 8 September.
The HDP is not seeking to join the main opposition alliance on voting for members of parliament, while it was looking to agree a single challenger to Erdoğan, Saruhan Oluç, a senior HDP MP told Reuters.
In case a cooperation between the six-party opposition bloc, led by the centrist Republican People’s Party and the nationalist Good (İYİ) Party, and the HDP cannot be secured, the HDP will be able to put forward its own presidential candidate, according to Oluç.
In this scenario, “an HDP candidate could diffuse the anti-Erdoğan vote and boost the president’s chances of winning,” Reuters said, quoting analysts.
Despite the possibility of toppling Erdoğan, nationalist sentiments around the country’s Kurdish question could jeopardise the opposition’s hopes for a victory in upcoming elections.
Meanwhile, discussions sparked by the comments of Republican People’s Party (CHP) MP Gürsel Tekin this week highlighted the fragility of a possible cooperation between two opposition blocs.
After Gürsel Tekin said on TV that the HDP, like any other party, could be offered a ministry if the CHP-led Nation Alliance came to power, his party officials immediately announced that Tekin’s views did not represent those of the party.
Later, the İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener said “We will not sit at the same table with the HDP, nor can the HDP be present at any table where our party sits”.
“We would like those who attempt to look down on the HDP with artificial discussions to tell us how they plan to embrace society and govern the country,” HDP parliamentary group co-chair Meral Danış Beştaş said in a tweet in response to the debate between the opposition parties.
On Saturday, Sancar reiterated the HDP’s position.
“Of course we are making calls out to all opposition parties,” he said. “But if these calls are interpreted as pleas to support us, this indicates a lack of awareness,” he continued, adding, “It is in fact the mind and the conscience of people in Turkey as a whole that we are addressing with these calls.”
“We are aware of our strength. We know that we are the key party in the elections. Consciousness of our responsibility is our main principle, we are aware of the people’s support for us. Everybody should know that we are fully aware of our responsibilities,” Sancar said.