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Jailed Kurdish leader urges opposition to call on AKP to resign over lira crisis

Selahattin Demirtas

In this file photo taken on June 5, 2016 Co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş delivers a speech in Istanbul during a rally on the lawmakers' immunity. Europe's top human rights court on December 22, 2020 called on Turkey to release a prominent Kurdish leader imprisoned four years ago, citing infringements on his freedom of expression and the right to free elections. OZAN KOSE / AFP

Imprisoned Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş has urged Turkey’s opposition leaders to jointly call on the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to resign over the recent plunge of the lira to historic lows, local media reported on Wednesday, citing a tweet shared from his account.

Demirtaş, the former co-chairperson of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) who has been behind bars for over five years on politically motivated charges, also urged opposition party leaders to jointly call for early elections.

“Is there any obstacle in the way of … opposition party leaders holding a joint press conference, calling on the government to resign and demanding immediate elections? If not now, then when?” Demirtaş said. He also called on the opposition parties to hold seven rallies in Turkey’s seven geographical regions.

Turkey’s next elections are scheduled to take place in June 2023.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday again rejected calls from opposition parties to hold early elections in the wake of declining support for his party.

The Turkish currency has shed 45 percent of its value this year, becoming the world’s worst-performing currency in 2021.

The currency plunged more than 15 percent on Tuesday, tumbling as far as 13.45 to the dollar and plumbing record lows for an 11th straight session, before trimming some of those losses to close 10.2 percent lower at 12.7015.

The collapse was triggered by Erdoğan, who on Monday defended the central bank’s recent rate cuts and vowed to win his “economic war of independence,” despite widespread criticism and pleas to reverse course.

The bank cut its policy rate last Thursday by 100 basis points to 15 percent, well below inflation of nearly 20 percent, under pressure from Erdoğan.

The bank has now slashed rates by 400 basis points since September in what many analysts say is a risky policy mistake. Société Générale said it would need to deliver an “emergency” hike as soon as next month.

Erdoğan is widely criticized for subscribing to the unorthodox belief that high interest rates cause high inflation instead of slowing it down.

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