A governor in northwestern Turkey has argued that Turks would not tolerate a member of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which he equated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), becoming a member of the Cabinet, the Demirören News Agency (DHA) reported on Wednesday.
“This country wouldn’t tolerate an interior minister, a minister of education, or a vice president from the PKK, the HDP,” Kocaeli Governor Seddar Yavuz said on Wednesday in a speech during a public event, equating the pro-Kurdish party with the terrorist organization.
“I’m calling out to groups in this country that legitimize terrorist organizations and their political extensions, that cooperate with them. … Look, this would end in disaster. … Listen to reason,” the governor added, in an attempt to intimidate opposition parties not to form alliances or work with the HDP to unseat President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the elections scheduled for 2023.
As part of its political strategy in Turkey’s west, the HDP, the country’s second-largest opposition party, in 2019 sat out the mayoral races in big cities and urged its supporters to cast strategic votes for the Nation Alliance, consisting of several opposition parties including the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Partly due to the support of Kurdish voters, the CHP was able to defeat the governing AKP in a number of major cities, including Ankara and İstanbul, during the 2019 local elections.
Critical media outlets said the governor’s remarks sounded as if he was a spokesman for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which, together with its ally, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), have long portrayed the HDP as the political front of the PKK.
The party denies links to PKK and says it is working to achieve a peaceful solution to Turkey’s Kurdish issue and is only coming under attack because of its strong opposition to Erdoğan’s 19-year rule.
The political and legal assault on the HDP, which intensified after the truce between Kurdish militants and the AKP government broke down in 2015, grew even stronger after Erdoğan survived a coup attempt in July 2016 that was followed by a sweeping political crackdown.
The party currently faces a closure case on charges of “attempting to destroy the indivisibility between the state and the people.”
Hundreds of HDP politicians, including the party’s former co-chairs, are behind bars on terrorism charges, while most of the 65 HDP mayors elected in the predominantly Kurdish Southeast in 2019 have been replaced by government-appointed trustees.