Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party and its leftist allies have asked their voters to back President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s main rival in the May 14 presidential election.
Friday’s announcement pushes one of Turkey’s largest voting blocs behind opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the head of the People’s Republican Party, and further complicates Erdogan’s path to achieving more than two decades in power.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the third-largest in Turkey’s parliament, decided last month not to field a presidential candidate and strongly hinted that it would back Kilicdaroglu without officially endorsing his candidacy.
However, both the party’s co-leader and its leftist electoral alliance issued statements on Friday calling on voters to rally around Erdogan’s main opponent.
“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 has 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 repression under successive secular governments and helped Erdogan and his conservative party seize power 20 years 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 crackdown.
Since then, Turkey has jailed thousands of activists and replaced dozens of elected HDP mayors with state trustees after accusing them of having ties with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). It has fought a war against the Turkish state since 1984 and is a designated “terrorist” group in Turkey, the European Union and the United States.
Erdogan portrays the HDP as the political-wing of the PKK, and the party is now facing the threat of closure over alleged “terror” ties. The imminent threat of dissolution has forced the HDP to run its parliamentary candidates under the banner of a new party called the Party of Greens and the Left Future.
The party says it is being singled out for standing up to Erdogan’s rule.
“We have two strategic goals,” Sancar said. “The first is to end the one-man regime. And the second is to become the most influential force in the democratic transformation.”
“Our goals coincide with Kilicdaroglu’s on ending the one-man regime,” he said.
The HDP’s support significantly expands the reach of Kilicdaroglu’s six-party alliance, already an eclectic mix of liberals and nationalists and an ultraconservative party.