Jailed pro-Kurdish leader backs Istanbul opposition mayoral candidate

Selahattin Demirtas, the jailed former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), has said he backs Ekrem Imamoglu, the opposition candidate for Istanbul mayor in the June 23 mayoral election re-run.

The former HDP co-leader, who has been in prison since November 2016 on terrorism-related charges, once again urged his supporters to vote for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP)’s candidate in tweets shared via his lawyers late on Monday.

“We believe that Imamoglu’s discourse should be supported because we’re beautiful when we’re together,” Demirtas tweeted, referring to CHP candidate’s slogan “Everything will be beautiful.”

“Without HDP, by leaving HDP out, nothing will be beautiful enough,” he said.

Commenting on the upcoming re-run, Demirtas stated that it is not a multiple-choice vote.

“If one wants to make way for democracy, peace, justice, equality, and freedoms [in Turkey], HDP’s attitude regarding the vote is important and purposeful for that person,” he said.

“The beautiful people of Istanbul… Do not cast your votes for animosity, grudges, revenge, hate, self-interest and to deepen social polarization. But cast them for the bright future of our children,” the pro-Kurdish leader urged.

Despite being in prison since 2016, Demirtas is seen as the driving force behind HDP’s decision to encourage the party’s supporters to vote in favor of Imamoglu in the initial local elections.

Kurdish votes played a key role on March 31 polls when the opposition’s Imamoglu gained a narrow victory over his government-backed rival, Turkey’s former prime minister Binali Yildirim, party due to Kurdish support.

Secular CHP’s Imamoglu received his mayoral mandate on April 17, when he ended the 25-year rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its Islamist predecessors in Turkey’s business hub.

In early May, the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) canceled the election results in Istanbul and ordered a re-run on June 23 following numerous appeals by AKP that included alleged voting irregularities.

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