Pro-Kurdish HDP launches ‘no’ vote campaign against one man rule in Turkey

ISTANBUL – The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has launched its official campaign for a “no” vote in the Turkey’s upcoming constitutional referendum with meetings in three provinces: Istanbul, İzmir and Diyarbakır.

HDP spokesperson Osman Baydemir, who took his post late last month after former speaker Ayhan Bilgen was arrested, spoke at the Istanbul meeting along with the party’s deputy parliamentary group chair. At the meeting, they read out the names of 13 jailed lawmakers of the HDP, the second largest opposition party in the Turkish parliament.

HDP deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder spoke in İzmir and connected to the hall in Istanbul via video conference. He repeated a 2015 quote from Selahattin Demirtaş, one of the party’s two jailed co-chairs along with Figen Yüksekdağ.

“We will not make you the president,” said Önder, referencing a speech by Demirtaş in parliament ahead of the July 7, 2015 election, which failed to yield a one-party or coalition government. The HDP entered that election as a single party – not with independent candidates – and managed to surpass the 10 percent threshold, netting 13.1 percent and sending 80 deputies to the 550-seat parliament.

The June 2015 election was repeated on Nov. 1 the same year after a coalition government could not be formed, and the party once again passed the 10 percent threshold but its votes fell to 10.8 percent and it lost 21 seats.

The summer of 2015 had seen an eruption of clashes between the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish military following the breakdown of talks to find a resolution to the Kurdish issue. The PKK dug trenches in urban areas across the southeast.

The HDP and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) both oppose the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) push for a constitutional change, which will introduce an executive presidential system, while the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) backs the amendments.

“They have only one reason to say ‘yes’ but we have millions of reasons to say ‘no,’” Önder said at the meeting in İzmir.

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