Turkey’s pro-Kurdish HDP says Istanbul revote a democracy referendum

The co-chair of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has called the redo on the Istanbul mayoral elections a referendum for democracy while calling on increased objection to the isolation of jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, independent news site T24 reported.

“The 23rd of June is not only a mayoral elections, but a democracy referendum. The people of Turkey and social opposition must, without a doubt, come together in that referendum… this will open the way for democracy in Turkey. Be brave, and come let us tear down fascism,’’ Sezai Temelli said on Sunday during a HDP provincial congress meeting in the Kurdish-majority southeastern province of Diyarbakır.

Turkey’s top election body on Monday ordered a rerun of the Istanbul mayoral election, after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) filed an appeal following a narrow defeat on March 31 to main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Ekrem Imamoğlu. The vote redo in the city of 16 million, where Erdoğan began his political career and remained under the control of the Islamist AKP and its predecessor for 25 years, is set to take place on June 23. 

“The way to defeat the AKP-MHP bloc once again goes through opposing war and the isolation [of Öcalan],’’ Temelli said, referring to AKP ally far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

The HDP did not nominate a mayoral candidate in the March 31 Istanbul polls, as part of a joint opposition effort to win Turkey’s largest city where Erdoğan’s political career began. The party will not name a candidate for the Istanbul election rerun, either.

Temelli also criticized the ruling AKP for failing to address the country’s Kurdish problem.

“The interlocutor on this matter is the esteemed Öcalan. As such, his isolation must be lifted. If it does not, than the whole country will be confined to isolation. And this is what has happened. It is time to put an end to this lawlessness,’’ Temelli said.

The leader of the PKK, an armed group that has been in war in Turkey for over 30 years, was captured by Turkey in 1999 and has been jailed since then on İmralı Island. Öcalan has been barred from meeting his legal representatives since 2011 and has had only limited family visits since the collapse of a peace process between the state and the PKK in 2015. 

HDP lawmaker Leyla Güven initiated a started a hunger strike in November to protest the isolation of Öcalan. She has been joined by thousands of Kurdish prisoners, including a number of HDP lawmakers.