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Kılıçdaroğlu says he will certainly meet with pro-Kurdish HDP for his presidential bid

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Turkey’s main opposition leader, the joint presidential candidate of an opposition bloc of six parties, has said he will certainly meet with pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) officials to seek their support for his presidential bid, the Halk TV news website 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 bloc, known as the Nation Alliance, does not include the HDP due to the presence of the nationalist İYİ (Good) Party in the group, 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.

Following Kılıçdaroğlu’s nomination, there was discussion as to whether he would seek the support of the HDP, which is widely seen as the kingmaker in the presidential election on May 14 that could end two-decade rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is seeking re-election.

“I will certainly visit the HDP. As a candidate to become the president of Turkey and its 85 million people, democracy demands that I visit all the parties. What could possibly be wrong with my visiting the HDP?” Kılıçdaroğlu said in an interview with Halk TV.

The HDP currently faces a closure case filed against it in March 2021 due to its alleged links to the outlawed PKK.

President Erdoğan and his election ally, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, also accuse the party of links to the PKK.

Kılıçdaroğlu said lawmakers work together with HDP deputies in parliament and that HDP lawmaker Nimetullah Erdoğmuş even serves as deputy parliament speaker.

“There can be nothing more normal than my visiting the HDP,” Kılıçdaroğlu added.

Many say Kılıçdaroğlu needs to maintain a fine balance in his dialogue with the HDP in order not to undermine support among nationalist voters hostile to its pro-Kurdish politics.

İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener said in a statement earlier this week that she has no objections to Kılıçdaroğlu’s dialogue with the HDP but that the HDP can’t be part of the Nation Alliance and that no ministries can be given to the party in return for its support for Kılıçdaroğlu.

HDP Co-chairperson Mithat Sancar, who said following Kılıçdaroğlu’s nomination that his party is expecting a visit from him, said on Thursday that his party’s dialogue will be with the presidential candidate of the opposition alliance.

“It will not be a HDP-CHP dialogue,” said Sancar in remarks likely to upset Akşener.

Meanwhile, jailed Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş, a former co-chair of the HDP, said in an interview from prison with the Medyascope news website that it is time to make Kılıçdaroğlu the joint candidate of all the people in Turkey.

“If this goal is achieved, social polarization will decrease and hopes will be raised about maintenance of peace and coexistence [among different groups of people in the society],” said Demirtaş.

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