HDP keeps its stance in Istanbul rerun after Ocalan’s call for neutrality

Jailed leader and founder of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan has called on the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) to remain impartial in the June 23 Istanbul re-run mayoral election.

“The HDP’s democratic alliance approach should not be made a part of current election discussions. The importance of the democratic alliance is that it … insists on its neutral position in elections,” Ocalan’s statement read.

Ocalan’s call has been seen by many as a statement that has a potential to influence the poll results in Istanbul in favor of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), as HDP had been supporting Ekrem Imamoglu from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

However, the HDP administration interpreted Ocalan’s neutrality message as a general strategy that overlaps the HDP’s ‘Third Way Strategy’ and therefore they would go on with their previous election strategy to back CHP’s Imamoglu.

The statement was first revealed by the state-run Anadolu news agency (AA) on Thursday. It was later confirmed by Ocalan’s lawyers on Friday. The lawyers released the letter, which was written by Ocalan to HDP during their visit.

In his letter Ocalan did not say whether HDP supporters should cast votes or not in Sunday’s election, leaving the final decision to the party’s seniors. Ocalan’s move came amid the upcoming hot mayoral race in the election rerun.

A recent survey by KONDA, a prominent Turkish pollster company predicted CHP’s Imamoglu garnering 54 percent. Binali Yildirim from AKP is polled at 45 percent of the votes, an approximately 9 percent lead.

In the March 31 election which was later annulled at the request of AKP by the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK), HDP had supported the opposition CHP against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP, playing a crucial role in Imamoglu’s narrow victory.

With their recent nine-article response to Ocalan, the HDP co-chairs, Pervin Buldan ve Sezai Temelli, said HDP would still support Imamoglu in the upcoming June 23 rerun election.

“There has been no strategical and tactical change regarding the Istanbul [rerun] elections, based on HDP’s staying impartial against two historical blocs and maintaining its ‘Third Way Strategy’ decisively,” the co-chairs said.

They were referring to the bipolar political status in the country between the Nation Alliance which was formed by the opposition CHP, the nationalist Good Party (IYI) and the Islamist Felicity Party (SP) and the People’s Alliance formed by the ruling AKP and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

The HDP leaders also condemned the AA, together with the prosecutor and the administration of the prison where Ocalan is imprisoned, for leaking the letter on Thursday before it reached its respondent the HDP. They referred to the leak as ‘immoral.’

“It shows how Erdogan is politically pragmatist and how he is desperate as he tried to pit HDP against Ocalan over the leaked letter,” the co-chairs said.

Erdogan said in a televised interview shortly after the AA revealed Ocalan’s letter that it was a signal of a ‘power struggle’ between HDP and Ocalan.

On Monday, Selahattin Demirtas, HDP’s jailed former co-chair had urged the HDP voters in tweets shared via his lawyers to back Imamoglu.

“Imamoglu’s discourse should be supported because we’re beautiful when we’re together. Without HDP, by leaving HDP out, nothing will be beautiful enough. 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,” Demirtas urged.

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