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Turkey’s largest pro-Kurdish party backs Erdogan’s rival in upcoming election

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, presidential candidate of Turkey’s main opposition alliance, addresses his supporters during a rally ahead of the May 14 presidential and parliamentary elections, in Tekirdag, Turkey April 27, 2023. © Murad Sezer, Reuters

Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party and its leftist allies called on voters Friday to back President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s main rival in the May 14 polls.


The announcement pushes one of Turkey’s largest voting blocs behind opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu and further complicates Erdogan’s path to a third decade of rule.

The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) — the third-largest in Turkey’s parliament — decided last month not to field a presidential candidate.

It then strongly hinted that it would back Kilicdaroglu without officially endorsing his candidacy.

>> Read more : Kemal Kilicdaroglu: The soft-spoken reformer threatening Erdogan’s grip on power

But both the party’s co-leader and its leftist electoral alliance issued statements Friday calling on voters to rally around the most likely candidate to beat Erdogan.

“In this historic election, we call on the people of Turkey to vote for the Labour and Freedom Alliance in the parliamentary elections and for Kemal Kilicdaroglu in the presidential elections,” the HDP and its allies said in a statement.

HDP co-leader Mithat Sancar called the upcoming vote “the most crucial in Turkey’s history”.

“That’s why we’ve decided to support Kilicdaroglu,” he told the Sozcu news site.

The HDP won more than 10 percent of the vote in past national elections and represents a community accounting for about a fifth of Turkey’s population.

‘Our goals coincide’ 

Kurds suffered repressions under successive secular governments and helped Erdogan and his Islamic-rooted party seize power two decades ago.

Erdogan lifted linguistic and cultural restrictions on the community and tried to end a bloody Kurdish struggle for an independent state in Turkey’s southeast through talks.

But a breakdown of those negotiations in 2015 was followed by a new wave of violence and a government clampdown on Kurdish groups.

Erdogan’s government jailed thousands of activists and replaced dozens of elected Kurdish mayors with state trustees.

The HDP is now facing the threat of closure over alleged terror ties.

Erdogan portrays the party as the political wing of militants who have been waging their insurgency since 1984.

The party says it is being singled out for standing up to Erdogan’s rule.

The imminent threat of dissolution forced the HDP to run its parliamentary candidates under the banner of a new party called the Green Left.

“We have two strategic goals. The first is to end the one-man regime. And the second is to become the most influential force in the democratic transformation,” Sancar said.

“Our goals coincide with Kilicdaroglu’s on ending the one-man regime.”

The HDP’s support expands the reach of Kilicdaroglu’s six-party alliance — already comprised of an eclectic mix of liberals and nationalists and an Islamic group.


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