Turkey’s opposition HDP elects new co-leader, calls for revived peace

Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) 3rd Extraordinary Congress, held on 20 May 2017.

Turkey’s Kurdish-issue focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) elected Serpil Kemalbay as its new co-leader at the party’s 3rd Extraordinary Congress on Saturday after imprisoned former co-leader Figen Yuksekdag’s membership was revoked by the country’s Supreme Court earlier in the year.

The HDP’s new co-leader Serpil Kemalbay.

The other co-leader Selahattin Demirtas, who has also been in prison since November last year, was re-elected with a unanimous vote.

In a published declaration the left-wing party vowed to continue in their struggle for democracy, freedom, and justice despite the jailing of many of their members and attempted “liquidation” of the party, Rudaw reported.

In a message from prison Yuksekdag called the HDP a “woman’s party” and said she would continue working for the cause without interruption, despite losing her role as co-leader.

In a more detailed letter read out by HDP Spokesperson Osman Baydemir and setting out the course the party needed to take, co-leader Selahattin Demirtas said the HDP had a “moral responsibility” towards the people of Turkey and needed to produce “concrete answers” to the problems the country is facing.

Demirtas also emphasised the need for courage in insisting on democratic, non-violent methods to resolve problems, saying “politics cannot be done with hatred, anger, and revenge.”

The popular politician, once dubbed “the Kurdish Obama” also appealed for the revival of peace talks between the government and imprisoned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan.

About 300 delegates and MPs attended the congress under heavy security measures according to local media.

10 HDP lawmakers, including the party’s co-leaders, are behind bars for alleged ties to the outlawed PKK.