ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – With its charismatic “Kurdish Obama” Selahattin Demirtas behind bars, and over a dozen lawmakers either in prison or ousted from the Parliament, Turkey’s opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) announced Thursday new candidates for its leadership.
The party’s current Co-chair Serpil Kemalbay told a press conference at the HDP headquarters in Ankara that MPs Pervin Buldan and Sezai Temelli would run to become new co-leaders in an upcoming congress set for Feb. 11.
Although the HDP central committee had requested a third term from Demirtas, the jailed Kurdish leader, who led successful electoral campaigns and fierce opposition to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, ruled out a re-nomination.
Buldan, a native of the Kurdish province of Hakkari but representing an Istanbul constituency, also serves the Deputy Speaker of the Turkish Parliament from which seven of her fellow HDP lawmakers have been kicked out over statements courts have deemed as propaganda for terrorism.
She entered politics after Turkish paramilitary security forces abducted and extra-judicially executed her late husband Savas Buldan in 1994, one of 60 prominent Kurdish businessmen the then Prime Minister Tansu Ciller designated as a target for the Turkish state in a speech accusing them of funding the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The European Court of Human Rights in 2004 found the Turkish Government guilty of violating the right to life in the Buldan family’s appeal.
There are at least two probes against the HDP’s potential new leader for alleged “terrorist propaganda.”
Istanbul-born Temelli is one of the founders of the HDP and a former lecturer of economics at Istanbul University from which he was sacked in late 2016 in one of the first waves of an ongoing purge of tens of thousands of state employees by Erdogan’s administration.
He was elected to the Parliament in June 2015 elections only to lose his seat like 21 other HDP lawmakers in snap elections five months later after Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) successfully avoided the formation of a coalition government for the first time in over a decade thus ensuring its one-party domination.
HDP’s former Co-leader Figen Yuksekdag—among the MPs ousted from the Parliament—remains imprisoned along with eight lawmakers, 80 mayors, and thousands of party members.
Demirtas’ withdrawal from the political scene could prove fateful for his left-wing party, the larger Kurdish movement in Turkey, and the opposition as a whole.
Under his leadership, the HDP became the most outspoken opposition bloc, and the first pro-Kurdish party to pass Turkey’s 10 percent-high parliamentary electoral threshold in elections three years ago, almost costing the AKP another chance to form a single-party government.
An HDP lawmaker contacted by Kurdistan 24 refused to comment on the implications of Demirtas’ absence for the future of the party paralyzed by a government crackdown in the run-up to the local, parliamentary, and presidential elections in 2019.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany