Turkey’s Kurdish party vows to be ‘sultan’ Erdogan’s nightmare

HDP co-chairs present their June 7 election manifesto in Ankara

ISTANBUL (AFP): Turkey’s main Kurdish party Tuesday launched their manifesto for June 7 legislative polls, saying it would be a “sultan’s nightmare” for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“This manifesto will be the sultan’s nightmare but a dream for all the people of Turkey,” Figen Yuksekdag, co-chair of the the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), told party supporters, as she announced the party manifesto with co-leader Selahattin Demirtas.

Erdogan, who has dominated Turkey for over a decade, first as premier and now as president, is commonly referred to as the “Sultan” after the country’s former Ottoman rulers which he admires.

The HDP party, which is ranked in fourth place in polls, will play a key role in the elections as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) seeks a thumping majority to change the constitution to give the president full executive powers.

It hopes to clear the controversial 10 percent barrier for full representation in the 550-seat parliament.

If it does, the AKP may find it hard to reach two-thirds of the seats it needs to change the constitution to introduce a presidential system.

Uniquely among Turkey’s parties, it has has put women’s, worker and gay rights at the center of its election campaign. Half of all its candidates are women, and it has male and female co-leaders.

The party’s male co-chair Selahattin Demirtas, who greeted the audience in the long-suppressed Kurdish language, called for a “new beginning.”

“We can build a brand-new Turkey only through a radical transformation,” he said.

The HDP’s engagement in Turkish politics is partly the result of reforms led by Erdogan to give greater rights to Kurds, Turkey’s biggest ethnic minority.

But the HDP has in recent weeks bitterly accused the government of dragging its feet in the peace process to end the conflict with armed separatists that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

As well as courting the Kurdish vote, the HDP is seeking to broaden its appeal to leftist secular Turks attracted by its leftist and pro-women and pro-gay message.

“We are telling the homophobic mindset which does not recognize any color than black and white… to embrace their colors,” Yuksekdag said.