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Pro-Kurdish party co-chairpersons not to seek re-election after failure at the polls

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The two co-chairpersons of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) have decided not to run again for the party’s top positions after it suffered a loss in its percentage of the nationwide vote in last month’s general election, the Medya Haber TV reported.

HDP Co-chairpersons Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar on Sunday gave an interview to Medya Haber TV, a news channel on YouTube, during which they reflected on the results of the parliamentary election on May 14 as well as the results of presidential election and runoff on May 14 and May 28.

The HDP ran in the 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. The YSP secured 8.8 percent of the vote and 61 seats in the elections, while the HDP won 11.7 percent of the vote and 67 parliamentary seats in the 2018 parliamentary elections.

In the presidential election, the HDP supported the candidacy of main opposition party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who was nominated by a bloc of six opposition parties. The party did not nominate its own candidate so as not to divide the opposition vote. Kılıçdaroğlu was defeated by incumbent president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a runoff held on May 28, securing yet another five years in office.

Sancar and Buldan said they would not seek re-election at the party’s congress to be held in a few months.

Sancar said the YSP was unable to get the percentage of the nationwide vote it had expected and that they see the party as being unsuccessful in the election, if not defeated.

He said it was of great importance that the party was able to run in the election despite all the obstacles in its way.

Buldan said her party failed to manage the election campaign successfully and failed to reach out to different segments of society.

“For instance, the lack of representation of Armenians, Yazidis and the disabled were significant shortcomings,” Buldan said, referring to the party’s failure to nominate parliamentary candidates from these groups.

The HDP had an Armenian deputy, Garo Paylan, in the previous parliament. Paylan was not nominated again due to an intra-party rule that limits lawmakers to two terms in the legislature, a rule that was ignored for some HDP lawmakers.

Paylan said before the general election that it was a shortcoming for the party not to nominate an Armenian candidate for parliament.

Sancar and Buldan said they will give an accounting to the party about its failure in the election at meetings and conferences until a date is set for the party congress and then will hand over the party’s management to new people.

The co-chairpersons’ decision not to continue at the helm of the party has been seen by many as sign of democratic maturity, considering the fact that such moves are rare in Turkish politics.

Last week, Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, a former HDP co-chairperson who has been jailed on politically motivated charges since November 2016, directed criticism at the HDP due to its election failure in an interview he gave to the Artı Gerçek news website.

Demirtaş said the HDP is in great need of “intra-party democracy,” and he described the way to achieve this as enabling all party members to elect leaders at all levels, granting them a say in important decisions and allowing them to oversee the party whenever and wherever they desire.

“All of my criticisms and suggestions towards our party are completely well-intentioned, constructive and aimed at making a contribution. No one should attempt to use my criticisms to undermine the HDP. I am a member of the HDP, and I will continue to remain one,” he said.

Demirtaş also said the HDP had rejected his offer to become a candidate in the May 14 presidential election without explanation.

“I’d expressed to our party administration that I was ready to become a presidential candidate and that I could contribute more with democratic moves by taking the election to the second round. Additionally, I stated that my candidacy could also increase our party’s vote share. … However, my proposal was rejected without any explanation. I still don’t know the reason for it,” Demirtaş said.

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.

Although his offer to run for the presidency was ignored by the HDP, Demirtaş actively supported the YSP and Kılıçdaroğlu’s election campaigns for the May elections on social media through his lawyers.

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