Jailed Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş, a former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), has called on the party to “embrace the whole of Turkey” so that it becomes inevitable for all the opposition parties to cooperate for democracy in the period leading up to 2023 elections.
The Kurdish leader made the call in a column for the T24 news website on Tuesday, underlining that if the HDP expects a “Kurdish initiative” from the other opposition parties, the party should also launch a “Turkish initiative” and “embrace the whole of Turkey with self-confidence, without allowing our victim identity to plunge us into the psychology of oppression or anger.”
The “Kurdish initiative,” which was first announced by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government in 2009, refers to the loosening of many restrictions on Kurds in Turkey to improve their rights and end the decades-long conflict between the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Turkish security forces.
Demirtaş said all opposition parties should enter into a period of “change” and find new ways forward to stop the “terrible decay” in all areas of Turkey’s governmental system, which is due to the acts of “unbelievable unlawfulness and immorality” committed by the AKP and its ally, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
Noting that the ruling AKP pursues politics based on perceptions rather than facts, especially during election periods, Demirtaş warned that even if the opposition produces strong and concrete projects and policies based on facts, it still can’t reach large masses without changing the perceptions created by the AKP.
The opposition parties should work on common strategies to overcome this situation, the Kurdish leader said, adding that they would win the elections by taking at least 80 percent of the vote if they used a common language and the media, held joint activities, came up with joint projects to solve people’s problems and ultimately nominated a joint presidential candidate.
“In today’s conditions, institutional cooperation between the Table of Six and the HDP-based opposition seems unlikely,” Demirtaş said, accusing the parties, including the HDP, of the inability to respond to perceptions produced by the AKP with “a bold move of change.”
The “Table of Six” refers to the leaders of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Felicity Party (SP), the İYİ (Good) Party, the Future Party (GP), the Democrat Party (DP) and the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA).
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, İYİ head Meral Akşener, SP leader Temel Karamollaoğlu, DEVA chairman Ali Babacan, GP chair and former prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and DP chair Gültekin Uysal in February signed a declaration confirming their resolve to introduce a “strengthened parliamentary system” should they unseat President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the 2023 elections.
The leaders were criticized due to the fact that the pro-Kurdish HDP, the second-largest opposition party in parliament, was excluded from the declaration.
The HDP also repeatedly criticized the CHP and its ally, İYİ, 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 PKK.
“As I said, change takes courage. Now is the time to show that courage and start the change through ourselves. Be assured, the rest will come. … Change must begin now so that it can continue after the election,” Demirtaş said.
Arrested on Nov. 4, 2016 on terrorism-related charges, Demirtaş has since then remained in prison despite two European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rulings in 2018 and 2020 that said Demirtaş was imprisoned for “political” reasons and not for “legal” reasons, ordering his “immediate release.”