'May God help Erdoğan if I'm elected president': Demirtaş

'May God help Erdoğan if I'm elected president': Demirtaş

May God help Erdoğan if Im elected president: Demirtaş

Demirtaş underlined his stance against all kinds of discrimination in Turkey while also boldly claiming that he will win the elections in the first round, scheduled for Aug. 10. AA Photo

The Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) candidate for the upcoming presidential elections, Selahattin Demirtaş, revealed the roadmap of his campaign at an Istanbul meeting on July 15, along with a slogan declaring a “call for a new life.”

In the meeting, Demirtaş underlined his stance against all kinds of discrimination in Turkey while also boldly claiming that he will win the elections in the first round, scheduled for Aug. 10.

Responding jokily to a question from a reporter, he also added that the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) leader and candidate for the elections, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, would need God’s help if Demirtaş is elected president and Erdoğan remains prime minister.

“If I win and become president and Erdoğan remains prime minister, then may God help him. He will have to get used to democracy and plurality. He will not be able to tell [me], ‘come on, we’re leaving,’ in any meetings,” Demirtaş said. The latter was a clear reference to a notorious incident on May 10, when Erdoğan interrupted a speech in Ankara by Metin Feyzioglu, the chairman of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations, and called on incumbent President Abdullah Gül to leave with him as he stormed out of the meeting.

Demirtaş was repeatedly asked by reporters what his stance would be if he does not make it through to the possible second round of the election, and hinted that he would not express support for either Erdoğan or fellow candidate Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu in a possible run-off. “We will never withdraw to the advantage of any candidates in the second round,” he said.

 “Turkey is at a crossroads. Either the authority of the state will be emphasized or radical democratic changes will be chosen. We plan a system in which the state becomes smaller and the citizen becomes bigger. The state will no longer be run by one person. We will pave the way for people to be involved directly in governing by organizing people’s councils, such as farmers’ councils, retired councils,” Demirtaş also said.

The co-leader of the Kurdish problem-focused HDP linked Turkey’s democratization to the solution of the Kurdish issue, vowing to change the current Constitution.

“The changing of this Constitution, which blesses the state and ignores the people, cannot be postponed anymore,” he said.

“The education system should be multi-lingual and everyone should have the right to learn their mother tongue in the education system. Along with the official language of Turkish, mother tongue education should be provided,” said Demirtaş.

Religion was another subject on which Demirtaş made promises distinct from the other two candidates, saying that both the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) and compulsory religion classes at school should be abolished.

“Religion classes should not be compulsory, students should be free to choose whether to attend such classes or not. The Higher Education Board [YÖK] should also be abolished and education shouldn’t be reduced to exams,” he said.

Demirtaş added that compulsory military service should be abolished and he would defend citizens’ right to conscientious objection, while also stressing that he would emphasize women’s rights and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals.

“The killings of women still continue in the patriarchal society. LGBTI individuals are regarded as criminals in Turkey. All citizens will have right to exist with honor in our new life plan. We are aiming to have a president who will observe the social rights of all workers in this country,” he said.

Responding to a question about his stance on the “parallel structure,” the term used by Prime Minister Erdoğan to refer to members of the movement of Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, Demirtaş emphasized the once-healthy links between Erdoğan and the Gülen movement.

“It is absurd for the AKP to call a structure ‘parallel,’ considering that they have been intersected with each other for some time,” he said.

 If none of the three presidential candidates get more than 50 percent of the votes in the first round, the two candidates with the most votes will run in the second round scheduled for Aug. 24. Opinion polls currently give Demirtaş significantly lower support rates than İhsanoğlu and Erdoğan.