Pro-Kurdish HDP party announces it will not field a candidate in Turkey’s presidential election

A woman waves the flag of the pro-Kurdish HDP party during the Nouruz celebration in Diyarbakir, Turkey. – Europa Press/Contacto/Mehmet Masum Suer

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and its allies announced Wednesday that they will not field a candidate in Turkey’s May 14 presidential election, although they did not specify whether they would back main opposition leader Kemal Kiliçdaroglu.

»We have had a long discussion. We stated that we would nominate a candidate before the (Feb. 6) earthquake, but after the change of conditions we have revised this decision,» said HDP co-chair Pervin Buldan, according to a statement released by the party via its website.

Thus, he pointed out that »there are less than two months left for one of the most crucial elections in the history of Turkey» and added that the country »is going through a historic moment that will determine the future of the country and the society».

Buldan criticized that »the economic and social policies implemented by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government over the past 21 years have created great destruction in all areas» and pointed to »practices that have limited freedoms through oppression and lawlessness».

»The AKP government and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have stolen the president from the society and threaten its future,» lamented Buldan, who asserted that »this political power has fallen upon the country like a nightmare and spread a one-man rule to every inch of the territory through all kinds of domination practices.»

Therefore, he argued that »the most basic need of Turkey is a real and firm democracy based on the sovereignty of the people» and said that the HDP »wants a system in which universal rights and freedoms are constitutionally recognized and guaranteed».

»It is not possible to achieve this goal without a strong local democracy in which mechanisms of local participation operate,» he explained, before stressing that »the country and society will rise up on May 15 with hope.» We will fulfill our historical responsibility in the face of the one-man mandate in the presidential elections», he stressed.

»We are determined to hold accountable those responsible for the destruction within the Government», he asserted, while he pointed out that the Executive »has maintained an administration based on poverty, corruption, looting and rents». Therefore, he called for »a political system that improves the living conditions of the people, guarantees justice, gender equality, respects nature and maintains a peaceful foreign policy».

In this line, he called for »permanent, realistic and inclusive solutions to social and political problems» and said that »a person who polarizes society, creates tensions, generates internal and external enemies, stirs up unrest and ignores the demands and aspirations of millions of citizens has no chance of winning», in reference to the current president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The HPD and its allies have not specified whether they will back the candidacy of Kiliçdaroglu, leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), who in the past has received the support of former pro-Kurdish party chairman Selahattin Demirtas, imprisoned since 2016.

The pro-Kurdish party has been the target of a crackdown since the 2015 collapse of the peace process between the Turkish government and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), including dozens of arrests and convictions for alleged support for terrorism, something rejected by the HDP, which denounces political persecution.

Erdogan, who has already confirmed he will run for re-election, is trailing Kiliçdaroglu, backed by a coalition of opposition parties, according to several polls. The president could face his biggest challenge at the polls after two decades at the helm as prime minister and then president.