HDP ready to overcome every obstacle before elections, senior member says

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Saruhan Oluç, group deputy chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), on Thursday said in an interview with BBC’s Turkish service that they were ready to overcome every obstacle in their way before the 2023 general election and wouldn’t leave the political arena even if the party were closed down.

Turkey’s Constitutional Court on June 21 accepted an indictment filed by a prosecutor seeking the closure of the HDP and the imposition of a political ban on 451 party members as well as a freeze on the party’s bank accounts for alleged ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“We’ve drawn up a roadmap for ourselves, taking into consideration the worst-case scenario [the closure of the HDP]. But we definitely won’t leave the political arena. We’re very clear on that,” Oluç said.

He added that the HDP has solutions to overcome any obstacles that might prevent them from participating in the next elections, including the closure of the pro-Kurdish party.

When asked whether they would consider running as independent candidates in the next elections in the event the party is closed down, Oluç replied, “That’s the most extreme [solution], and we’re not even discussing it yet.”

“It all comes down to this: We won’t leave democratic politics, and we’ll make anybody who thinks they’ll make us lose by way of the closure case and political bans lose big. And we won’t leave our voters without options,” he added.

Oluç argued that the decision to close down the HDP would make its voter base even more determined while causing the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to lose its Kurdish voters.

“We’ll see what happens when Kurds choose not to vote for the AKP. They will definitely experience a big loss [of voters],” he said.

Speaking on the effects of the closure case on the HDP’s voter base, Oluç told BBC that the party surpasses the election threshold according to a large majority of election surveys, even some of those conducted by polling companies close to the ruling AKP, and receives around 13 percent of the vote in a few.

Turkey has a 10 percent election threshold, which means if a party fails to get 10 percent of the national vote in the general election, they lose the opportunity to be represented in parliament.

Oluç also stated that they would issue a declaration in the second half of September listing their expectations of a potential presidential candidate and the steps to take to switch back from an executive presidential system of governance to a parliamentary system.

Nationwide support for the executive-style presidential system, which was adopted in Turkey with 51.4 percent of the vote in a 2017 referendum, dropped below 38 percent in recent polls. The system was criticized for removing constitutional checks and balances and thus leading to a further weakening of Turkish democracy by granting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling AKP sweeping powers.

Oluç further emphasized that one of the most important issues on the HDP’s agenda was the steps to take to find a democratic and peaceful solution to the country’s “Kurdish problem,” a term prevalent in Turkey’s public discourse to denote the Kurdish struggle for recognition.

The so-called Kurdish problem is entrenched in Turkey and is characterized by never-ending clashes between the outlawed PKK and Turkish security forces. More than 40,000 people, including 5,500 security force members, have been killed in four decades of fighting between the Turkish state and the PKK.

Both the ruling AKP and its ally, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), frequently accuse HDP of ties to the PKK. The party denies the government’s claim and says it is working to achieve a peaceful solution to Turkey’s so-called Kurdish problem.

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