Pro-Kurdish leader says his imprisonment led to Erdogan victory

HDP consistently opposed any proposals to grant more powers to Erdogan.

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – If the Co-chair of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party Selahattin Demirtas and other lawmakers had not been in prison, the outcome of an April referendum on granting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping powers would have been different, argued Demirtas in a Sunday article sent from his prison cell.

“Now, before what we have been through becomes history, let me ask: Had we been free (despite all the tricks and unfairness) wouldn’t the result of the referendum have obviously come out as NO,” asked the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-chair Demirtas in the article.

The constitutional reform package approved by 51.4 percent of voters provided Erdogan with executive powers.

The victory gave him the ability to dissolve parliament, declare a state of emergency, issue decrees, and form a cabinet.

Erdogan is also able to appoint top judicial, bureaucratic, and military officials without a parliamentary vote of confidence.

Demirtas, who the authorities have held in a supermax prison in the northwestern Turkish city of Edirne, said he and 11 other jailed HDP lawmakers could have tilted the 1.4 percentage that brought the narrow victory for Erdogan.

Demirtas’ article shared on the HDP website insisted the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government prepared the “actual” groundwork for the referendum not when it submitted the constitutional package in December 2016, but earlier in November.

Turkish national police arrested Demirtas and a dozen other Kurdish lawmakers during simultaneous midnight house raids in several cities on Nov. 4.

Erdogan and his government accuse HDP, the second largest opposition block, of being a political front for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The PKK has waged a guerrilla warfare against Turkish troops for greater Kurdish rights, a charge Demirtas and others have rejected.

A report on the April 16 referendum by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) criticized the continued detention of HDP MPs in the run-up to the referendum.

“A limited and not fully transparent debate” while Demirtas was in jail along with 11 other lawmakers diminished confidence in the constitutional reform process, the report read.

HDP consistently opposed any proposals to grant more powers to Erdogan.

“We will not allow you to become president,” was the main HDP motto during the previous two general elections in June and November 2015.


Editing by Karzan Sulaivany