Jailed Kurdish leader calls on constituency to forget the past, vote on Sunday

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The pro-Kurdish Peoples's Democratic Party's (HDP) former leader Selahattin Demirtas and current Turkish presidential candidate, sits in prison in Edirne on May 4, 2018. Demirtas, who has been behind bars since November 2016, is in prison accused of links to outlawed Kurdish rebels and is facing a 142-year sentence on charges of leading a terror organization. / HANDOUT / AFP PHOTO / HDP

Jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş called on his constituency to cast their ballots on Sunday in line with the strategy of the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and to leave aside past grievances.

The HDP did not nominate mayoral candidates for large cities, including İstanbul, Ankara and İzmir, in a move to support opposition alliance candidates against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

The move, however, sparked debate among leftist and Kurdish voters who do not want to vote for opposition candidates and rather prefer to boycott the elections.

According to the latest polls, Kurdish votes are critical for the opposition alliance to win the İstanbul and Ankara mayoral posts.

“The past is not completely insignificant. We shouldn’t forget what we experienced, what we saw. But the future is more important,” Demirtaş said in a series of tweets posted by his lawyers.

Demirtaş, who has been jailed since November 2016 on terrorism charges, was a presidential candidate in Turkey’s elections last June.

“You are the decisive factor in these elections. The strategic ballots we cast in cities in where we don’t have a candidate will be the sign of our power,” he added.

“Dear citizens, I won’t be among you on election night, but I will watch the same screen as you from my cell in Edirne. I hope to see ballots that will make all of us happy.”

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