Turkey's opposition unsure on embracing pro-Kurdish party

Middle East
2023-03-07 | 08:44
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Turkey's opposition unsure on embracing pro-Kurdish party
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3min
Turkey's opposition unsure on embracing pro-Kurdish party

A call by Turkey's pro-Kurdish party for talks with an opposition alliance on supporting its joint candidate to challenge President Tayyip Erdogan in May elections has caused unease among some nationalist elements of the diverse union.

Mithat Sancar, co-leader of the left-wing Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), parliament's third biggest, made the appeal late on Monday after the six-party opposition bloc announced that Kemal Kilicdaroglu would be its candidate.
 
Two officials in the alliance told Reuters that there were fears that such talks with the HDP, which faces potential closure in a court case over alleged ties to Kurdish militants, could undermine support among nationalist voters hostile to its pro-Kurdish politics.

The HDP is widely seen playing a kingmaker role in the presidential and parliamentary votes expected on May 14. The separate six-party bloc will likely need its support to end Erdogan's two-decade political reign.
 
Encompassing social democrats, nationalists, secularists and Islamists, the bloc put aside differences on Monday to endorse candidate Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition centrist Republican People's Party (CHP).

Around the same time, Sancar invited the bloc to hold talks that might pave the way for the HDP supporting Kilicdaroglu.

"Our goal is democracy, justice, freedom. Basically, we want to talk about principles," he told broadcaster Haberturk.
 
A senior alliance party official told Reuters that Sancar's invitation was "a little early", adding the issue of how the HDP provides support was set to be the opposition's biggest problem.

"The open support of the HDP would draw (negative) reactions, notably from the IYI Party and its grassroots," he said of the nationalist party, second-biggest in the alliance.

"HDP support is extremely critical," he said, but added it could undermine backing elsewhere.

A senior figure in another alliance party said public HDP endorsement could cut IYI support by five percentage points and CHP by 2-3 percentage points.

Some polls put the opposition alliance ahead of the ruling coalition of Erdogan's Islamist-rooted AKP and the nationalist MHP but they generally point to a tight race. The HDP has about 10% support nationwide.

"FINE BALANCE"
In a speech on Tuesday, Kilicdaroglu did not reference the HDP and said the other five parties would help seal victory.

"A very fine balance has to be found here. Otherwise, there may be a price to pay," the second official said. "Votes coming from the HDP may be matched by those lost in the alliance."

Turkey's Constitutional Court is hearing a case aimed at closing the HDP over alleged ties to Kurdish militants, which the party denies. In campaigning, Erdogan will likely play up alleged links and the HDP's opposition role, analysts say.

The timing of a verdict was unclear, but the court rejected a HDP request to delay a ruling until after the elections. It has already frozen the party's bank accounts.

The second official, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said some Kurdish voters would not back the opposition alliance due to IYI's involvement.

Sancar said the HDP played a key role in creating political balances in Turkey and this should take place in the open, not behind closed doors. He added no progress had been made since it set out its policies in September.

The HDP previously signaled it would field its own candidate in the absence of talks, but Sancar said the party was reconsidering that after last month's earthquake.
 

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