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Turkey elections: Pro-Kurdish opposition party backs Kilicdaroglu against Erdogan

The coalition backing Kilicdaroglu represents one of Turkey’s largest voting blocs
Women next to election billboards, south-eastern Turkey 28 April 2023 (AFP)

Turkey's main pro-Kurdish party and its political allies endorsed Kemal Kilicdaroglu on Friday for next month’s presidential election against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The left-wing coalition backing Kilicdaroglu, led by the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), represents one of Turkey’s largest voting blocs and has not put forward a presidential candidate for the 14 May elections.

Kilicdaroglu faces incumbent Erdogan who aims for a third decade in power.

"In this historic election, we call on the peoples of Turkey to vote for the Labour and Freedom Alliance in the parliamentary elections and for Kemal Kilicdaroglu in the presidential elections," said the coalition headed by the HDP in a statement.

This call to action is significant as the HDP won more than 10 percent of the vote in past national elections and represents a community that accounts for about a fifth of Turkey's population.

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According to HDP co-leader Mithat Sancar, this upcoming election is "the most crucial in Turkey's history," which is why they have decided to support Kilicdaroglu.

Kilicdaroglu is 74 years old and will be running for the post for the first time.

New policies

As chairman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kilicdaroglu has helped transform the party that founded the Republic of Turkey, from a secularist, establishment political organisation, to one that is diverse, socially democratic, and centre left.

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With Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party having dominated the political scene for decades, Kilicdaroglu has sought to establish alliances with other opposition parties and attempted to extend his reach beyond traditional CHP voters.

His coalition, which is called the Table of Six, has announced a series of programmes, including constitutional amendments to revert the political system to a parliamentary one and a plan to reform Turkish democracy.

Kilicdaroglu’s foreign policy is relatively unknown, but those close to him say the government under his leadership would reorient Turkey back to the West while maintaining a balanced approach to Russia.

Kilicdaroglu is also expected to escalate a normalisation with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad while looking for ways to return a huge chunk of the nearly four million Syrian refugees back to their homeland on a voluntary basis.

Kilicdaroglu last year said he would hold Israel, Saudi Arabia and Greece accountable for the steps they have taken against Turkey in recent years, promising to backtrack from Ankara’s recent policies that have sought detente with its regional neighbours and competitors.

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