May 15 2018

Free Demirtaş to compete in presidential elections - Akşener

Turkish opposition Good Party leader Meral Akşener has called for the release from prison of pro-Kurdish presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş to campaign for the upcoming June 24 elections, German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported on Tuesday.

“Of course I want us to run our campaigns on an equal footing against the other presidential candidates,” said Akşener, who is also running as the natıonalıst Good Party’s candidate for the presidency, during a press conference in Ankara.

That includes Demirtaş, a former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (PKK) who has been held in pre-trial detention since Nov. 2016 on terror charges.

Akşener’s call for Demirtaş’s release echoes that of Muharrem İnce, the presidential candidate for the main opposition secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), who said the government should release the HDP candidate before visiting him in prison last week.

The Good Party leader’s words reflect as a sense of unity among opposition figures from diverse parties, four of which including the CHP and Good Party have agreed to form an alliance ahead of the elections.

The comments also mark a milestone for Akşener and the Good Party, which was founded by breakaway politicians from the government-allied far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) last year.

Akşener was known for taking a hard line while serving as interior minister in 1996-97 during the height of the conflict with the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a group which has sought Kurdish self-rule through armed resistance in Turkey’s largely Kurdish south eastern provinces.

Speaking on the Kurdish issue at the press conference, Akşener said she had visited the country’s majority-Kurdish areas and formed a close relationship with the voters there.

“The idea that Kurds will not vote for me in the second round of the presidential elections is a complete urban legend,” Akşener said, later adding that her party’s aim was to create a democracy in Turkey where the country’s demographic differences are not an issue.

Akşener, the country’s longest-serving woman politician, said this could be achieved by “giving women hope and harnessing young Turks’ enterprising spirit to end polarisation in Turkey.”

The opposition party leader again showed a desire to project tolerance towards the millions of refugees harboured in Turkey, a subject on which she said her party had been stuck with an unfair reputation. “We don’t say they should be thrown out,” she said.