Peace should not be part of bargain: HDP co-chair Demirtaş

Peace should not be part of bargain: HDP co-chair Demirtaş

Peace should not be part of bargain: HDP co-chair Demirtaş

People’s Democracy Party (HDP) co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş (R) speaks to Deniz Zeyrek, the Ankara bureau chief of daily Hürriyet during an interview.

The ongoing efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Kurdish problem should not be part of a “political bargain,” Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş has said in an interview with daily Hürriyet.

“The issue of peace should be freed from being part of a political gain, or a piece of bargaining material for the AKP [the ruling Justice and Development Party],” Demirtaş said, while commenting on a fresh draft code from the government that suggests major steps in the Kurdish issue.

The HDP’s stance is set to be critical for the Aug. 10 presidential elections, as the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have named Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu as their joint candidate. The AKP, meanwhile, is strongly expected to declare Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as its candidate on July 1.

The Interior Ministry has recently prepared a seven item draft code that is expected to include a legal guarantee that actors involved in the process will not be tried in the future, as well as a smoothing of the process to allow outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants to return.

However, speaking to Hürriyet, Demirtaş expressed his skepticism over possible steps. “The prime minister has made some moves before all elections and took back everything that he gave to society. He continued ruling society with an authoritarian attitude that limits freedoms,” he said, while still welcoming the latest package.

“I’m not sure it will be enough to net votes for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan or the AKP. For sure, the will of our voters is not simply in our hands. Voters are not a herd of sheep,” Demirtaş added, in reference to a Turkish idiom. “Everyone has a thought, a way of thinking and will make their decision accordingly.”

The AKP should not cynically use the peace process as a means to collect Kurdish votes, he said, while also adding that the latest draft reform package should be taken seriously despite speculations on its timing on the eve of the presidential elections.

“The CHP has already expressed that it is warm [to the package]. This [package] would be a development that would comfort not only the AKP but the whole society and all political parties,” Demirtaş said, highlighting that the legal warranty for peace process actors was crucial for all concerned.

The HDP will decide on exactly when to declare its own presidential candidate at its party assembly over the weekend, Demirtaş also said. He said it would be holding only a limited amount of public rallies, preferring instead to deliver its messages via the media, adding that the main issues of the campaign would be solving the rising social tensions between various segments of society, such as those between Sunnis and Alevis or Kurds and Turks.

The HDP co-leader called for a president and a government that would change this situation, “embracing all identities, beliefs and walks of life, and easing the way to peace.”

“It might be true that Mr. Tayyip [Erdoğan] came from inside the people, but today he is a part of the state. Mr. Ekmeleddin also represents the state. The continuity of the state is more important than anything for both of them. The sole responsibility of the president cannot be just this,” Demirtaş said, stressing that the state should serve the public rather than the other way round.

He also commented cautiously on the joint opposition candidate Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, the former head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), saying his stance and possible performance was still unpredictable today. “I shouldn’t make a biased comment before seeing this,” he said.

İhsanoğlu would lose the Kurdish vote if he defends the status-quo, but he could make an impact if he promises and guarantees a state that would exceed both CHP and MHP in terms of freedom, Demirtaş added.

“All these will become clear if the race goes to the second round. First, we [the HDP] will discuss how to get into the second round. If we can’t do that, we will discuss these issues in the second round,” he said.

Meanwhile, a delegation from the HDP was today scheduled to visit the outlawed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan on İmralı Island prison, where he is serving a life sentence. The visit comes at a time when the Kurdish draft reform bill was set to be made public.