Jailed pro-Kurdish HDP lawmaker calls on Turkey to vote 'against fascism'

Jailed former co-chair of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, Selahattin Demirtaş, on called on everyone in Turkey to turn out for the March 31 local elections to cast a ballot against ‘’fascism,‘’ Yeni Yaşam newspaper reported.

The Kurdish political encouraged his party’s voters to support the opposition parties in the election, despite their stance over Turkey’s Kurdish issue and to coalesce against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“[You may have] to grin and bear it, but absolutely head to the ballot boxes and cast your votes, which will say ‘no to fascism.’ The election results could create an opportunity for democracy and peace to arrive,‘’ Demirtaş said.

Opposition HDP lawmaker Demirtaş, who has been jailed since Nov. 2016 on terrorism charges, echoed the sentiments of Turkey’s opposition parties, who are seeking to paint the nationwide municipal elections as a referendum on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and AKP, which has been ruling Turkey for the past 17 years.

On the other hand, the AKP and its ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) try to consolidate their voters, presenting the election as a turning point for what they call Turkey’s survival problem.

Ankara accuses the HDP of harbouring sympathies and acting in the interest of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has been in war in Turkey for over 30 years and has pursued a crackdown on the group, jailing over 10 of its lawmakers while assigning state-appointed administrators to many municipalities in the Kurdish-majority southeast.

The HDP has not named mayoral candidates for seven major cities, Istanbul, Ankara, the western city of Izmir, in a move that it hopes will grant the main opposition candidates enough votes to capture some of Turkey’s largest cities.

Demirtaş reiterated that the HDP is not affiliated with terror and the party will stand behind the opposition alliance comprised of the main opposition Republican People’s Party and the centre-right nationalist Good (İYİ) Party in certain cities in order to send the ruling AKP into the ‘’trash bin of history.‘’

Demirtaş‘s statement came after the opposition parties’ Ankara mayoral candidate Mansur Yavaş, a political with a nationalist background, said that he did not see HDP supporters as terrorists and believed that they should be ''integrated into society.'' Many HDP members and supporters slammed Yavaş, who according to pollsters has a high chance of winning the mayoral election in the Turkish capital.

‘’Those who assume that HDP members are unintelligent, will see the sharpness of their intellect at the polls on March 31,‘’  the 45-year-old lawmaker said.