Imprisoned opposition leader signals new alliances in post-referendum Turkey

HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtas.

Turkey’s imprisoned opposition leader Selahattin Demirtas, in a message from prison, commented on the country’s referendum results and said new alliances could be formed concentrating on democratic demands.

The co-leader of Turkey’s third largest party, the left-wing Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), also warned against polarising society in two camps and said this would be “political blindness and belittling the public will.”

Commenting on recent speculation in the Turkish media about a possible joint candidate in the 2019 presidential election for the 49% who voted against the constitutional change, Demirtas said political principles needed to be discussed before candidates.

“We are open to principled alliances to enable democratic solutions. However it is not right to speculate about candidates for 2019 at this early stage. The right thing to do is to discuss principles. To attempt to form a democracy bloc without discussing the worries, expectations and desires of the ‘Yes’ voters will be an inadequate and deficient approach. It is important to form common principles that will bring together both the ‘No’ and ‘Yes’ camps and prevent enmity and polarisation.”

Demirtas concluded his message, which has been reported in Turkish media as an important intervention into discussions on a candidate to field against Erdogan in the upcoming election, by saying that his party was open to political initiatives in favour of democratisation, fundamental rights and a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue.

The popular young politician has been jailed since November 2016 for alleged ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), charges he rejects. Critics have called the arrests political rather than judicial.

The recent release of several imprisoned lawmakers from the same party has raised hopes that the 10 remaining deputies, including the HDP’s other co-leader, Figen Yuksekdag, will also be released.