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Turkey elections: Pro-Kurdish HDP will not field presidential candidate

Move by left-wingers paves way for united front by opposition against Erdogan
CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu (C), with HDP co-chairs Pervin Buldan (L) and Mithat Sancar (R) at a press conference after a meeting in the parliament in Ankara on 20 March 2023 (AFP)

Turkey's pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democracy Party (HDP),  the third-largest party in parliament, announced on Wednesday it will not be putting forward a presidential candidate in the upcoming May elections, opening the way for a united opposition against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Party co-chair Pervin Buldan made the statement on behalf of the Labour and Freedom Alliance - which includes the HDP, the Turkish Workers Party (TIP) and other leftist parties - at a press conference in Ankara.

'We will fulfill our historical responsibility towards one-man rule in the presidential elections'

- HDP co-chair Pervin Buldan

“We will fulfill our historical responsibility towards one-man rule in the presidential elections," she said.

"We are determined to hold accountable those responsible for the great destruction from this government, which has maintained an administration based on poverty, corruption, plunder and rent, for the realisation of democracy, fundamental rights and freedoms, and social justice in the country."

Although she did not make it explicit in the press conference, it is widely assumed the HDP will throw its weight behind Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the Republican People's Party (CHP) leader who is the nominated candidate for the opposition National Alliance.

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Kilicdaroglu met with the HDP leadership in the Turkish parliament building on Tuesday, the day before the announcement, during which he reportedly promised to remove restrictions on the Kurdish language and address other issues related to Turkey's largest minority.

Overcoming obstacles

The National Alliance had formally resisted allying with the HDP due to the Turkish nationalist sentiments of many of those involved, particularly the centre-right Iyi Party.

However, supporters of the HDP are widely seen as potential kingmakers in the election and Kilicdaroglu has made numerous appeals to Kurdish and left-wing voters.

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A report by the independent Medyascope outlet on Wednesday indicated a surge in parliamentary candidate applications for the CHP, a party long associated with Turkish nationalism, in Kurdish-majority cities in Turkey.

The HDP has faced numerous obstacles in the run-up to the elections, which have been set by Erdogan for 14 May.

In March 2021, the chief public prosecutor of the Court of Cassation, Bekir Sahin, applied to the Constitutional Court for the HDP to be banned, citing its alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The HDP has denied any PKK links and claims the closure case is an attempt by the government to shut down the party.

Dozens of HDP members and officials, including two former co-leaders, are currently in jail in Turkey.

On Wednesday, the Constitutional Court rejected the HDP's request to delay the outcome of the closure case until after the May election.

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