TURKEY’S pro-Kurdish opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP) said yesterday it was ready to take on its historic new role after holding its first parliamentary group meeting since last Sunday’s elections.
Party co-chairs Pervin Buldan and Sezai Temelli told an Ankara press conference that the HDP had achieved a “great success” despite the elections being held under a state of emergency and HDP presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtas having to run his campaign from a prison cell.
Thanking those who voted for the party, Ms Buldan said the results showed that “the people don’t want a parliament without HDP [and] the people don’t want Turkey without HDP.”
The party had 68 MPs elected to the Turkish parliament, despite the elections being held in “a climate of fear.”
The Human Rights Association reported 361 arrests of HDP activists during the campaign, during which 17 of the party’s election rallies were banned — more than for any of its rivals.
In one of the bloodiest incidents, three HDP supporters were murdered by thugs from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the town of Suruc, near the Syrian border, 10 days before the vote.
But Turkey’s authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed in his bid to keep the HDP below the arbitrary 10 per cent threshold required to have MPs elected to parliament, with the party finishing with the third-highest vote share.
Mr Erdogan becomes the first president to take on new powers as Turkey moves from a parliamentary democracy to an executive presidency, ushering in a “dangerous” new era of “one-man rule.”
Under the new system, the president can appoint ministers and the judiciary and set the budget. More worryingly, the head of state can shut down parliament and rule by decree.
However, support for Mr Erdogan and his AKP declined, falling by more than two million votes in eastern and western Turkey.
He was forced to rely on the nationalist MHP, which did not stand a presidential candidate and entered a coalition to govern with the AKP.
Ms Buldan said: “At such a time when the AKP-MHP fascist coalition has prevailed, there is a great responsibility on us. Our struggle will continue.”
Mr Temelli promised that the HDP would be in the front line of the fight for democracy, offering “courage and hope” against the “fear empire” of the AKP.
“HDP has been the building force and locomotive of democracy and the peace struggle and will remain so in the future.
“HDP is the home of hope and the assurance of a democratic future,” he insisted.
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