State of emergency elections illegitimate, jailed party leader says

Turkey’s state of emergency must be lifted for free and fair elections to be held, jailed leader of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition party, Selahattin Demirtaş, said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is very keen to win presidential elections, due before November 2019, as he will then assume strong executive powers approved by a narrow majority in a referendum in April. Parliamentary elections are also due by the same time in 2019 and local elections are due to take place earlier in the year.

Demirtaş, the co-chair of pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has been held in a high security prison since Nov 4, 2016, accused of “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation.” He denies the charge.

Demirtaş told the leftist daily Birgün in an interview via his lawyers that authoritarianism had been on the rise in Turkey since the June 7, 2015 general elections in which his party had a strong showing.

The HDP for the first time got more than the necessary 10 percent of the national vote to enter parliament, reaching beyond its base in the mainly Kurdish southeast.

When the July 15, 2016 coup attempt was thwarted, it should have allowed room for a democratic consensus in Turkey, Demirtaş said, but the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) chose to impose its own agenda using the state of emergency declared afterwards.

Demirtaş said if the elections were held under a state of emergency, they would not be legitimate and would further polarise the country.