Supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan shouted slogans demanding the execution of jailed Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş during his victory speech outside the presidential palace in Ankara, the T24 news website reported.
Erdoğan on Sunday became the winner of a historic runoff that will extend his 20-year rule until 2028. He received 52.1 percent of the nationwide vote, while his main rival, opposition candidate and leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, got 47.8 percent, according to the preliminary results.
During his victory speech to a massive crowd, Erdoğan once again accused the opposition of links to terrorism, reminding that Kılıçdaroğlu had pledged to release Demirtaş, former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and a human rights lawyer, if he was elected to the top state post.
Demirtaş has been behind bars since November 2016 on politically motivated charges. He was an outspoken critic of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leader, Erdoğan, before he was jailed. He ran in the presidential elections of 2014 and 2018 as a rival to Erdoğan. The imprisoned leader conducted his election campaign from jail for the 2018 election.
“This terrorist, Selo, [Demirtaş] is responsible for the deaths of 51 Kurdish brothers and sisters in Diyarbakır. In Turkey, where justice and the rule of law prevail, you can’t simply release Selo … like you say. Such a thing isn’t possible under our administration,” Erdoğan said, addressing Kılıçdaroğlu.
Erdoğan accuses Demirtaş of responsibility for the deaths of 51 people during street protests in 2014.
Erdoğan supporters then chanted “Execution for Selo,” referring to Demirtaş.
— T24 (@t24comtr) May 28, 2023
Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004 as a part of reforms to facilitate Turkey’s accession to the European Union, although the death penalty has not been used since 1984.
Restoring capital punishment is a topic Erdoğan frequently talks about ahead of elections. The issue started to come up during the president’s speeches months before the May 14 parliamentary and presidential elections.
Erdoğan stated in response to the crowd calling for Demirtaş’s execution at a rally prior to the June 24, 2018 elections that he would have approved the reinstatement of capital punishment had parliament passed such legislation.
Erdoğan and his ruling AKP, in addition to their ultranationalist election partner, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), accuse the HDP of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community, and also accuse other opposition parties of collaboration with it from time to time.
The HDP, which ran in the May 14 general election under the banner of the Green Left Party (YSP) because the party faces the risk of being shut down due to an ongoing closure case against it, did not field its own presidential candidate but opted to support Kılıçdaroğlu to increase his chances of unseating Erdoğan.
Demirtaş also actively supported Kılıçdaroğlu’s election campaign on social media through his lawyers.
Demirtaş on Sunday said in a series of tweets that the entire election process was “manipulated” and marred by “significant inequalities, pressures, incredible lies, slander and defamation.”
“We haven’t been defeated. And because we haven’t been defeated, no one should ever be without hope. There is no surrender. Continue … the struggle,” he added.
Yenilmedik. Yenilmediğimiz için de sakın kimse umutsuz olmasın.
Asla teslim olmak yok.
Mücadeleye devam, devam, devam…
— Selahattin Demirtaş (@hdpdemirtas) May 28, 2023