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Pro-Kurdish party says it may support Kılıçdaroğlu in presidential election

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Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party has said it is open to discussing the possibility of lending its support to the presidential candidacy of main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu rather than nominating its own candidate, the Evrensel daily reported.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kılıçdaroğlu was announced on Monday as the presidential candidate of an opposition alliance after months-long discussions and a last-minute political crisis, which was resolved.

The opposition alliance, known as the Nation Alliance, does not include the HDP due to the presence of the nationalist İYİ (Good) Party in the alliance, which dislikes the HDP and sees it as linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community. The HDP is the second largest opposition party in parliament after the CHP.

HDP Co-chairperson Mithat Sancar said following the nomination that his party is expecting a visit from Kılıçdaroğlu to discuss whether they can support him in the presidential vote scheduled for May 14.

“Our clear expectation is a transition to a strong democracy. If we can agree on fundamental principles, we may support him in the presidential election,” Sancar said.

Yet two officials in the alliance told Reuters there were fears that such talks with the HDP, which faces potential closure in a court case over alleged ties to the PKK, could undermine support among nationalist voters hostile to its pro-Kurdish politics.

A senior alliance party official told Reuters that Sancar’s invitation was “a little early,” adding that the issue of how the HDP provides support would be the opposition’s biggest problem.

“The open support of the HDP would draw [negative] reactions, notably from the İYİ Party and its grassroots,” he said of the nationalist party, second-biggest in the alliance.

“HDP support is extremely critical,” he said but added it could undermine backing elsewhere.

Earlier, the HDP had announced that it would field its own presidential candidate if the candidate of the opposition does not take the demands of Kurds for equal rights seriously.

Meanwhile, jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, a former co-chairperson of the HDP, also said from his Twitter account, which is managed by his lawyers, that Kılıçdaroğlu is expected to visit HDP headquarters for discussions over his candidacy while expressing his wish that Kılıçdaroğlu’s candidacy is beneficial for the country.

In 2019 HDP voters helped the Nation Alliance win the local elections in big cities such as İstanbul, Ankara and Hatay, ousting the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

But Kurds say their support should not be taken for granted.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his election partner, Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), have repeatedly accused the HDP of ties to the PKK.

The HDP, which has 56 seats in the 579-member parliament, denies any links to the PKK.

The party, which faces a closure case, also had its funding suspended by the Constitutional Court in January for the same reason.

The HDP’s future could play a major role in deciding Erdoğan’s success in parliamentary and presidential elections now posing one of the stiffest challenges of his two-decade rule.

Erdoğan is seeking re-election as the joint candidate of the Public Alliance, which includes his party, the MHP and the Grand Unity Party (BBP).

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