JAILED Turkish presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtas has urged voters to stop the “one-man regime” of tyrannical President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a campaign speech broadcast to the nation.
The People’s Democratic Party (HDP) former co-chair gave an election address from his prison cell, broadcast reluctantly on state TV, and claimed he is being held because the government fears him.
In a last-minute decision a court ruled against allowing the speech to be shown on a big screen as more than 100,000 supporters packed into an HDP election rally in Istanbul yesterday.
However, Mr Demirtas, who has been held in Erdine prison on trumped-up terrorism charges since November 2016, sent a message to the Turkish public promising “light, hope, peace, and confidence” over “darkness, fear or nightmare.”
But he warned of the dangers faced by Turkey in Sunday’s elections, one of the most crucial in the country’s history.
The opposition politician polled more than 9 per cent in the 2014 presidential elections, paving the way for the HDP’s stunning result the following year when it broke through the arbitrary 10 per cent threshold, electing 80 deputies to the Turkish parliament.
But a controversial “rigged” referendum last year saw the move from a parliamentary democracy to a system handing unprecedented powers to the president including the ability to shut down parliament and rule by decree — a move branded “fascism via the ballot box” by Mr Erdogan’s opponents.
Mr Demirtas said: “Your decision will concern not only today but also our future, our children’s and our grandchildren’s future.”
He warned that if Mr Erdogan is elected, “the fate of the whole country will be between the lips of a single person” and Turkey will become an “authoritarian, oppressive and undemocratic country.”
“You will feel unable to breathe in a regime of fear and despair, you will feel like you are strangled,” Mr Demirtas said.
He promised a Turkey where everyone would be equal. “We are Kurds and Turks, women and men, Alevis and Sunnis, but above all: we are human. We are not superior to one another. Our anger is only directed at tyranny,” he said.
“This is why we are different. We are not one man, we are many people. We are not afraid of one man as so many people. We will ride out the storm all together, hand in hand, for the future of our children.”
Candidates will be allowed a further election broadcast on Saturday.
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