Imamoglu expresses wish to visit HDP’s jailed former leader

Ekrem Imamoglu, Istanbul’s newly elected mayor from the main secular opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) paid a visit on Wednesday to Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP) to thank it for its support during the June 23 Istanbul mayoral election rerun.

Imamoglu said during the visit that he would like to visit HDP’s jailed former leader Selahattin Demirtas.

Imamoglu won the Istanbul mayoral election rerun on June 23 – this time by a greater margin following public reaction to the annulment of the March 31 vote by the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK).

Last week, he received the official mandate to be the mayor of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB).

While addressing thousands following the mayoral handover ceremony last week, Imamoglu sent a special thank to HDP, which did not nominate any candidate in both the March 31 and the June 23 polls in Istanbul to back him against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).

At the time he did not mention HDP’s jailed former leader Selahattin Demirtas.

On June 17, prior to the June 23 rerun election in Istanbul, Demirtas had repeated his backing for Imamoglu in tweets shared via his lawyers, urging the HDP voters in favor of him.

Later in the same week, Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader and founder of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) called on HDP to remain impartial in the June 23 election.

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

Through the party’s  ‘Third Way Strategy’, the HDP calls on Turkey’s political parties to “leave behind polarized and tense politics”, referring to the bipolar political status in the country. The party emphasizes the need for the ‘alliance of democracy’ and urges a new constitution.

After a closed-door meeting between Imamoglu and HDP’s provincial co-chairs Esengul Demir and Cengiz Cicek, the three spoke to reporters.

Imamoglu repeated his thanks to the HDP voters and seniors for their backing on June 23, adding that the HDP’s Istanbul provincial chairs were the first to celebrate his mayoral win following the election.

“Courtesy and support of our citizens who vote for HDP and our friends who held duties in districts were very precious for us,” Imamoglu said.

Answering a question whether he planned to visit Demirtas in prison, Imamoglu said he had thanked Demirtas for his supportive statements before the June 23 vote, defining Demirtas’s stance “too precious”.

“Like everyone else, I would like to know why Demirtas is imprisoned. In this context, I want to state that I side with anyone who is unlawfully mistreated. I believe that the process [Demirtas’ imprisonment] must come to an end immediately. If I have the opportunity, of course, I would like to visit Demirtas. However, there are some rules for such visits [to be possible],” Imamoglu added.

While thanking, the HDP’s Demir said Imamoglu’s visit was very important as it was the first of its kind, referring to the dismissive approach of political parties towards HDP.

“Our people supported Imamoglu against unlawfulness and unfairness. Imamoglu shows a municipalism understanding that includes all identities living in Istanbul,” Demir said.

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

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