Jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş has said he is not legally eligible to run for the presidency, turning down a proposal from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) to be its presidential candidate in the May 14 presidential election, according to a statement from the party.
The HDP announced on Friday that a delegation from the party met with Demirtaş in Edirne Prison in northwestern Turkey on Thursday, where he has been jailed since November 2016, and asked him to be the party’s presidential candidate. Demirtaş thanked the party for its proposal but said he is unable to run for the top state post due to legal obstacles and that he would support a candidate nominated by the Labor and Freedom Alliance, of which the HDP is a part.
Demirtaş was the HDP’s co-chairperson when he was arrested.
The legal obstacles Demirtaş mentioned refer to a political ban resulting from a court ruling in 2018 when he was given a jail sentence of four years, eight months on charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda. The court’s decision was upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals in 2021. Demirtaş filed an individual application at the Constitutional Court claiming that his rights had been violated, but the court has not yet reviewed application.
It is legally not possible for someone convicted of a crime to run for the presidency under Turkish law, a fact that was also upheld by the appeals court.
Demirtaş is currently in jail as part of another trial.
HDP Co-chairperson Pervin Buldan announced earlier this month that her party would determine its own presidential candidate and announce that person’s name as soon as possible.
“The HDP will decide on its own presidential candidate and will take part in the election with that candidate,” Buldan said.
The HDP, the second largest opposition party in parliament, is expected to play a crucial role in the election of the country’s next president.
An opposition bloc, consisting of six opposition parties apart from the HDP, has not yet announced their candidate, while incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has already declared that he will be the candidate of the “Public Alliance,” comprising his Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
The opposition bloc, known as the “Table of Six,” is distancing itself from the HDP due to allegations of the party’s alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.
Demirtaş was an outspoken critic of the AKP government and its leader, Erdoğan, before he was jailed. He ran in the presidential elections of 2014 and 2018 as a rival to Erdoğan. The imprisoned leader conducted his election campaign from jail for the 2018 election. He has been behind bars on politically motivated charges since November 2016 despite rulings from the European Court of Human Rights calling for his immediate release.