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Pro-Kurdish HDP says it is the key determinant of new era in Turkish politics

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Pervin Buldan, co-chairperson of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said the HDP is the key determinant of a “new era” in Turkish politics after she was re-elected co-chair along with Mithat Sancar at the party’s 5th Ordinary Congress on Sunday.

The HDP congress heard about the electoral strategies of the ruling party and the opposition from party executives and the party’s role in the Turkish political landscape.

The HDP repeatedly criticized the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and its ally, the Good (İYİ) Party, for their stance on Kurds’ rights and efforts to distance themselves from the pro-Kurdish party amid a crackdown on its members that accelerated after 2016.

Turkey’s Constitutional Court in June 2021 accepted an indictment filed by a prosecutor seeking closure of the HDP and the imposition of a political ban on 451 party members as well as a freeze of the party’s bank accounts for alleged ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“Everyone should know very well that HDP will not be a bridge in political calculations that are made solely to cross the river,” Buldan said during the congress.

The HDP is the third-largest party in the Turkish parliament, and many analysts see the pro-minority party as a key player in the general election to beat Turkey’s strongman, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has been ruling the country since 2002.

“We are open to negotiations and the idea of a joint candidate if transparent talks are held. If we don’t get a response to this call, we will consider the option of entering the election with our own candidate,” Sancar said.

The HDP’s 5th Ordinary Congress was held with the participation of party members from all over Turkey.

In addition to the election of the co-chairs, elections were held for membership in the 100-member Party Assembly, the Central Disciplinary Board and the Conciliation Board.

Of the party’s 1,050 registered delegates, 806 voted. Buldan and Sancar were re-elected as co-chairs with 797 votes.

In addition to the party members, a large number of guests, including representatives of political parties and nongovernmental organizations from Turkey and abroad, also attended the congress.

Leading figures of the HDP, including former Mardin Mayor Ahmet Türk, who was replaced by a trustee; Başak Demirtaş, wife of former HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş, who has been in prison since 2016; and former MPs Sırrı Süreyya Önder and Sırrı Sakık were present at the congress.

While the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and İYİ were not invited to the congress, CHP Deputy Chairperson Onursal Adıgüzel as well as representatives of the Future Party, the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) and the Felicity Party were in attendance.

Buldan criticized the government and conveyed messages to the opposition.

“The upcoming election is not the election of a president. The real issue is the change of this crisis-producing system and the establishment of a new order,” Buldan said and added, “The HDP is the key determinant and political power of the new era.”

Buldan said those who want change should stand with the HDP.

Demirtaş, who is being held in Edirne Prison, and former Diyarbakır Mayor Selçuk Mızraklı, who was replaced by a trustee, also sent messages to the people at the congress, emphasizing the resolve of party management to overthrow “oppression” and and “ensure democracy, peace and freedoms.”

A government-led crackdown on the HDP reached new heights following a failed coup in July 2016 as Turkey’s ruling AKP launched a massive crackdown on its opponents under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. The party’s former co-chairpersons, Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, who were arrested in November 2016 on terrorism charges, are still behind bars.

HDP mayors have also received their share of the crackdown on the party as the government replaced 48 HDP mayors, elected in 2019, with government-appointed trustees. A total of 37 HDP mayors were arrested, 17 of whom are still in jail.

The AKP accuses the HDP of links to the PKK, an armed group listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU. The HDP denies the claim.

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