Hamdi Firat BuyukSarajevoBIRNMay 26, 202313:48Jailed Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtas and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, HDP, have declared support for Kilicdaroglu – despite his nationalist turn ahead of Sunday’s presidential run-off.

Kurdish Politicians Renew Support for Kilicdaroglu in Turkish Run-off

Election posters of Turkish presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party, in Istanbul, 25 May 2023. Photo: EPA-EFE/ERDEM SAHIN

After the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, HDP, declared its support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, in Sunday’s run-off, jailed popular Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas has also backed him, despite his nationalist, anti-migrant turn in his campaign.

“If there is no change at the ballot box, it will be a disaster in the economy and democracy,” Demirtas wrote on Twitter on Friday.

Demirtas also urged Kurdish voters to go to the polls, as observers fear a low turn-out among Kurdish electors due to Kilicdaroglu’s new nationalist and anti-migrant focus, as well as his recent cooperation with the ultra-nationalist Victory Party, VP.

“Let’s make Kilicdaroglu President, let Turkey breathe. Go to the polls!” Demirtas added.

Demirtas has been in prison for more than six years due to alleged terrorism ties and has not been released despite various rulings from the European Court of Human Rights, ECHR.

The HDP on Thursday renewed its support for Kilicdaroglu.

“We will all go to the ballot boxes and in unison will change the one-man regime. Our power and millions’ desire for change is our biggest source of inspiration.” HDP co-chair Pervin Buldan said on Thursday after a two-day meeting on her party’s position concerning Kilicdaroglu’s new stance.

Despite offering support, Buldan condemned the protocol agreed between Kilicdaroglu and the VP leader, Umit Ozdag.

“Those placing collateral on Kurds’ political will via trustees are again those who are placing collateral on the rights and freedoms of the whole Turkish people. The deadlock of the Kurdish problem is not for the benefit of society,” Buldan said.

One of controversial articles in the protocol agreed on an active fight against terrorist organisations and on the appointment of trustee mayors if local administrators’ “ties with terrorism” are “proven by legal evidence”.

After winning 44.8 per cent of the total vote, Kilicdaroglu ended the first round of the presidential elections on May 14 behind Erdogan who got 49.5 per cent. Erdogan’s People’s Alliance also secured a comfortable majority in parliament.

The ultra-nationalist and anti-migrant ATA Alliance and its presidential candidate, Sinan Ogan, received a surprising 2.43 per cent and 5.17 per cent of total votes respectively on May 14, becoming kingmakers in the second round of the race.

Recognising the importance of nationalist votes, Kilicdaroglu has since adopted a new nationalistic and anti-migrant discourse.

Most experts doubt Kilicdaroglu’s abrupt change of focus will bring him victory, and the turnout may be low in eastern and southeastern Turkey, which is mainly populated by ethnic Kurds.

Ogan and his political allies parted ways after May 14 due to a disagreement on which candidate they should support in the second round. Ogan himself is supporting Erdogan in the second round but other parties in the ATA Alliance have declared support for Kilicdaroglu.

More than 60 million Turkish citizens are eligible to vote on Sunday in 87 election districts and Turkey’s large diaspora equalled to 3.5 million voters have already finished voting in diplomatic missions on May 24.

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