Jailed Kurdish politician says the only way out of crisis for Erdoğan is early elections

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Selahattin Demirtaş, a prominent Kurdish politician who has been behind bars since November 2016, has said Turkey is undergoing an economic and social crisis and that the only way out for the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is to call for early elections.

Demirtaş’s remarks came during an interview with Deutsche Welle’s Turkish edition. The interview, which was conducted through Demirtaş’s lawyers, was published on Monday.

“There are serious economic, political and sociocultural crises, and there seem to be no concrete developments on the horizon for any improvement. Unfortunately, everything is taking a turn for the worse in Turkey. The society is in a deep state of desperation and unhappiness,” Demirtaş said.  

He noted that it is becoming more difficult for Erdoğan to manage the political situation and that an early election seems necessary.

Turkey held a presidential and general election in June 2018. The upcoming elections are scheduled for 2023.

“We are not talking about a crisis that can go on. We are undergoing a serious crisis, which is getting deeper and deeper. In this chaotic environment I don’t think the government will be able to hold on to the power of the state for long. So I think an early election is the only way [out of the crisis],” Demirtaş said.

Turkey has long been suffering from an economic crisis, which has deteriorated since the beginning of the year, causing the country’s currency to lose 30 percent of its value against the US dollar. Turkey’s annual inflation jumped more than expected, to 14.03 percent, in November, its highest since August 2019 on the back of the Turkish lira’s depreciation.

Demirtaş said no matter how severe the situation in the country, he believes the opposition parties can overcome it by joining forces.

When asked about the prospects of his release from prison, the jailed politician said it depends completely on political circumstances and developments.

“I am fighting not for my personal freedom but for the freedom of the people and democracy,” said Demirtaş.

Last month, Bülent Arınç, an aide of Erdoğan, had to resign as a member of the Presidential High Advisory Board when he called for the release of Demirtaş and businessman and human rights activist Osman Kavala, whom he said were kept behind bars on poorly drafted indictments.

Arınç angered Erdoğan, who accused him of “setting new fires of evil” with his call for the release of Demirtaş and Kavala.

Both Demirtaş and Kavala are still in prison despite rulings from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which found their arrests unlawful and called for their immediate release.

Erdoğan and his party accuse Demirtaş of responsibility for the deaths of 53 people during street protests in 2014 against an attack on the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani. The protesters accused the Turkish army of standing by as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) besieged Kobani in plain sight just across the Syrian border. Demirtaş is accused by Erdoğan of inciting the protests.

Demirtaş was co-chairperson of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) when he was arrested.

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