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Jailed Kurdish leader endorses Kılıçdaroğlu’s presidential candidacy

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Jailed Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş has announced that he will vote for Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the main opposition leader and the presidential candidate of an opposition bloc of parties, in the upcoming presidential election on May 14.

Demirtaş, who has been in prison since November 2016 on politically motivated charges, tweeted on Wednesday evening through his lawyers and addressed Kılıçdaroğlu as the “13th president of Turkey.”

“My vote is for you,” said Demirtaş, with the hashtag  #CumhurbaşkanıKılıçdaroğlu (President Kılıçdaroğlu) and sending him his good wishes for his potential presidency.

He said he believes in his heart that Kılıçdaroğlu will put an end to polarization, promote social reconciliation and bring welfare and peace to the country.

Despite being in jail, Demirtaş is actively taking part in election campaigning through his tweets, telling various segments of society that they have the power to get rid of their problems and the poor management of the country with their vote on May 14, when Turkey will also hold parliamentary elections.

It was the first time that the politician, who is the former co-chairperson of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), publicly mentioned supporting Kılıçdaroğlu, the main rival against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The HDP, which decided not to field its own presidential candidate in tacit support for Kılıçdaroğlu, recently announced its open support for the politician.

Following his nomination by a six-party opposition alliance, Kılıçdaroğlu met with the HDP co-chairpersons and asked for their support in the election. During the meeting he said Turkey’s long-standing Kurdish issue can be resolved through democratic means in the Turkish Parliament.

The Kurdish issue, a term prevalent in Turkey’s public discourse, refers to the demand for equal rights by the country’s Kurdish population and their struggle for recognition.

Erdoğan and his far-right ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), accuse Kılıçdaroğlu and his allies of collaborating with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), claiming that the HDP has links to the PKK.

The HDP denies any links to the PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.

Demirtaş is also accused by Erdoğan of links to the PKK and being a “terrorist.”

Erdoğan said during an election rally in Ankara on Sunday that Demirtaş will not be released from prison as long as he’s in power.

The Kurdish politician was an outspoken critic of Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) 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.

Demirtaş remains in prison despite rulings from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) calling for his immediate release.

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