Turkey’s third-biggest opposition party has delivered a blow to re-election prospects of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan by opting not to field a candidate in the May 14th poll.
Announcing the decision, Pervin Buldan, co-chair of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), said: “We will carry out our responsibility against one-man rule.”
Following a meeting with Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the candidate of the six-party opposition Nation Alliance, Ms Buldan suggested the HDP could soon declare support for him. From his prison cell, former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas urged the Nation Alliance to co-operate with the HDP.
Mr Kilicdaroglu heads the secular, socialist Republican People’s Party which was formed in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. It is the second largest party in the assembly, behind Mr Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Ms Buldan said HDP candidates would run for parliament with the Green Left Party, as the HDP faces a ban over its alleged links to the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party. HDP votes – estimated at 12-14 per cent – could be decisive if the opposition is to elect a president and achieve a majority in parliament.
In the outgoing assembly, the AKP and its nationalist allies hold 333 of the 600 seats while the opposition, including the HDP, has 241 seats. Recent polls show Mr Erdogan trailing Mr Kilicdaroglu by 10 points, while the AKP is four points behind the Nation Alliance.
Mr Erdogan and the AKP have lost popularity due to Turkey’s economic crisis, an inflation rate of 80 per cent and the collapse of the Turkish currency. His failure to deal promptly with the aftermath of the February 6th earthquakes, which killed 50,000 and devastated 11 of Turkey’s 81 provinces, has cost him countrywide votes.
The HDP has to back the opposition to survive Mr Erdogan’s effort to crush the party. In the 2015 election, the HDP won 80 assembly seats, denying the AKP a majority and forcing it to form a coalition with right-wing nationalists. Following the 2016 failed coup attempt, Mr Erdogan declared a national emergency, detained 100,000 people, and imprisoned 50,000 people under anti-terrorism legislation, including HDP co-chairs and 10 HDP legislators.
Police and army officers, judges and journalists were incarcerated. Judges were replaced by AKP loyalists who, in January, froze HDP government funding for the election campaign and refused to delay a pre-election verdict in a 2021 case that would ban the HDP over alleged ties to the outlawed Turkish Kurdish Worker’s Party, which has battled Ankara for independence or autonomy since 1984.