Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party weighing withdrawal from parliament, mayorships

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) is discussing whether its lawmakers and mayors should collectively resign their posts amid the Turkish government’s intensified crackdown against the party, BBC Turkish reported on Saturday.

The Turkish government replaced four district mayors of the HDP on Saturday over alleged terror links, brining the number of HDP mayors removed since the March local polls to 24.

The discussions on social media over withdrawal from parliament and other posts have gained traction after the lawyer of the jailed former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, Mahsuni Karaman, said on Twitter pointed to resignations as an option.

Demirtaş and the party’s other former co-chair, Figen Yüksekdağ, have been behind bars since 2016.

Karaman later said that his comments did not mean a call for collective resignation.

Meanwhile, the party plans to decide on a joint stance over the issue in a meeting on Nov. 20 and share it with the public in a declaration, BBC Turkish said. 

The Turkish government accuses the HDP of harbouring sympathies and acting in the interest of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The HDP denies any links. 

The HDP became the first pro-Kurdish political party to pass Turkey’s 10 percent electoral threshold in June 2015, and has held on to gain representation in parliament in each election since.

The party’s executives are not leaning towards the option of withdrawal from the parliament and mayorships, BBC Turkish said, adding that only 10 percent of HDP supporters back the option according to surveys made by the party.

But the party’s supporters also criticise the party for being largely ineffective in objecting to the removal of mayors, with 60 percent finding the response to the government’s moves unsatisfactory, Mezopotamya news agency said citing a recent poll. 

The party’s spokesman Günay Kubilay told reporters on Friday that the HDP had not been discussing a move like collective resignation, adding that intellectuals supporting the party had been suggesting it as an option. 

“It is one of the ways of struggle. The HDP is not a party that would ignore such proposals , turn a deaf ear to them due to its pluralist structure and radical democracy approach,” Kubilay said. 

“There are many suggestions and opinions including withdrawal and partial withdrawal,” HDP co-chair Sezai Temelli told BBC Turkish. “A study that will fulfil everybody’s expectations both strategically and politically and that will shape the future period has been ongoing,” he said.