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Jailed Kurdish leader’s wife decides not to run for mayor of İstanbul

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Başak Demirtaş, the wife of jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, has announced that she will not file an application to run as a mayoral candidate for İstanbul from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party), reversing an earlier statement.

Demirtaş said on Wednesday that as a result of consultations with the DEM Party, she decided not to file an official application with the party to run for mayor of İstanbul in the March 31 local elections. She said the decision was made in coordination with the DEM Party.

Demirtaş said she would strongly back the DEM Party’s mayoral candidates who will be announced soon and work for their success in the elections.

In a separate statement, the DEM Party also said Demirtaş’s decision was “jointly” made with the party and that the party would soon announce its İstanbul mayoral candidate.

The prospects of Demirtaş’s candidacy for İstanbul came to public attention last month when she told the Artı Gerçek news website in an interview that she was considering a run.

Demirtaş told Artı Gerçek that the DEM Party had not yet made a decision about an İstanbul candidate, “but if the people want it and the party agrees,” she might consider running for mayor if she believed it would open the way for the improvement of democracy and peace in society.

She said in such a case, her candidacy would not be a strategic move aimed at helping another candidate win or lose but to win the election herself.

The DEM Party announced on Sunday that it would field its own candidate in İstanbul contrary to what it did in the local elections of 2019, when the party’s predecessor, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), did not field a candidate but supported Ekrem İmamoğlu from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

The support from Kurdish voters helped İmamoğlu end the years-long Justice and Development Party (AKP) rule in Turkey’s most populous city.

İmamoğlu, 52, is seeking re-election. The lack of critical support from Kurdish voters this time is likely to reduce his chances of claiming another victory against the AKP candidate.

In January President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan tasked former environment minister Murat Kurum, 47, with winning back İstanbul.

İmamoğlu has been convicted of insulting a public official and could be forced to resign should the ruling be upheld.

Some critics claim that the DEM Party has come to an arrangement with Erdoğan to withdraw its support for İmamoğlu’s re-election bid in return for Selahattin Demirtaş’s freedom.

Demirtaş was convicted of spreading “terrorist propaganda” in 2016 and sentenced to 142 years in prison.

Although their party was not included in an opposition bloc of six parties, Kurds also supported the candidacy of former CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in the May presidential election, which ended with Kılıçdaroğlu’s defeat.

A secret deal made by Kılıçdaroğlu with a far-right party leader during the campaign that included pledges against Kurds led to resentment among Kurds when it came to public attention after the election, leading many of them to question their support of the party.

Kurds say they do not see sufficient support from the CHP for their demands regarding the expansion of their rights in return for their support for the party’s candidate in critical elections.

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