Well-known leftist politicians and activists from around the world have called on the Turkish government to halt its legal attacks on the country’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and allow it to participate in the upcoming elections.
Signed by more than 50 public figures from 23 countries, the letter warns that “the possibility that the country’s third largest party in parliament, representing more than 10% of the popular vote in the past two general elections, could be permanently banned so close to the upcoming elections places Turkish democracy in dire jeopardy.”
Turkey’s top prosecutor filed a case against the HDP, the second largest opposition party in the Turkish Parliament, in March 2021, accusing it of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a bloody war in Turkey’s southeast since 1984 and is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.
The party, which denies any links to the PKK, describes the case as politically motivated.
The letter, which was published by Progressive International, a worldwide network of progressive parties, movements, trade unions and campaigns, was signed by people such as former French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, German Left Party co-chair Janine Wissler, former British Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, MEP and head of the international secretariat of the Spanish Podemos Party Idoia Villanueva, former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, Filipino academic and politician Walden Bello and Professor Noam Chomsky.
It is not yet known if the HDP will be able to participate in parliamentary elections on May 14 when a presidential vote will also be held. If the Constitutional Court, which is expected to conclude the case before the elections, rules to dissolve the party, its candidates will not be able to run in the elections under the HDP banner.
In the past when pro-Kurdish parties faced similar threats, they either fielded independent candidates or ran under the banner of other parties.
Turkey’s political history is filled with pro-Kurdish parties that were shut down on terrorism charges. Every time a party was closed, another one was established in short order.
The HDP is widely seen as the kingmaker in the presidential election on May 14 that could end the two-decade rule of Erdoğan, who is seeking re-election.
The full text of the letter is as follows:
“On 8 February, two days after the devastating earthquakes in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited one of its worst affected cities and said: ‘This period is a period of unity.’ He went on to denounce criticisms of his government’s earthquake response ‘simply for the sake of political interests.’
But Erdoğan is doing exactly what he purports to criticise. Apart from confiscating and monopolising aid and assistance to prop up his support at the upcoming elections, his government continues to prosecute politically motivated cases against the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) amid the national crisis.
On 17 March 2021, Turkey’s Prosecutor General’s Office first filed a lawsuit for a political ban of the HPD before Turkey’s Constitutional Court. As a consequence, on 5 January 2023 — around half a year before the election date — the Constitutional Court ruled to freeze the HDP’s bank accounts and block its share of public funds for the electoral campaign, amounting to 539 million Turkish lira ($28.7m).
This trial to ban the HDP is now entering its final phase. On 11 April, just a few weeks before the elections, the Constitutional Court will hear HDP co-chairs Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar’s arguments against the suspension of the party’s funding and the attempt to dissolve it. And it could make its final ruling at any point before the elections.
The closure case is the culmination of a state campaign against the HDP that began in 2015 when it first entered parliament as an independent party. Since then, thousands of party members, including its former co-chairs and several elected mayors, have been detained on flimsy pretexts.
The possibility that the country’s third largest party in parliament — representing more than 10% of the popular vote in the past two general elections — could be permanently banned so close to the upcoming elections places Turkish democracy in dire jeopardy.
The peoples of Turkey must be able to freely and fairly elect their representatives — including the HDP. The party strives for a democratic and inclusive Turkey, with freedom, equality and justice for all. It stands for ecology, women’s emancipation, and the peaceful co-existence of different ethnic and religious groups.
If the Erdoğan government dissolves the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), it will likewise dissolve the foundations of democracy in Turkey.
We defend the HDP’s right to freedom of association, expression, peaceful assembly and participation in the upcoming elections. It is time to end the legal attacks against the HDP now, once and for all.”