Presidential candidate İnce challenges Erdoğan, calls for Demirtaş's release from jail

Presidential candidate İnce challenges Erdoğan, calls for Demirtaş's release from jail

Presidential candidate İnce challenges Erdoğan, calls for Demirtaşs release from jail

The presidential candidate for Turkey's main opposition on May 5 called for the release of Selahattin Demirtaş, former co-chair of Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), challenging President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to "let us race like men" in next month's snap elections.

On May 4, the Republican People's Party (CHP) nominated Muharrem İnce to challenge Erdoğan in the June 24 presidential election.

The Kurdish issue-focused HDP nominated its jailed former leader Selahattin Demirtaş.

"The HDP are also children of this nation, the AKP are also children of this country ... Don't keep Demirtaş in jail. Come, let's race like men," İnce told crowds of flag-waving supporters in his hometown of Yalova, where he held his first rally.

In his first interview with international media since being nominated, Demirtaş, who has been in jail on security charges for a year and a half, told Reuters a fair election was impossible under the state of emergency imposed after the July 2016 coup attempt.

Erdoğan last month called snap parliamentary and presidential elections for June 24, more than a year early, in order to switch to the powerful executive presidency narrowly approved in a referendum last April. 

Ahead of the elections, Erdoğan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) formed an election alliance, the "People's Alliance", with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which supported Erdoğan in the referendum.

İnce called on CHP members to sign for other candidates seeking 100,000 signatures in order to run for the presidency, including former interior minister Meral Akşener from the İYİ (Good) Party.

On May 5, the CHP, İYİ Party, Saadet Party and Democrat Party signed a declaration marking a four-way election alliance called the "Nation Alliance", pledging to remove polarisation, instill independence for the judiciary and ensure basic rights and freedoms can be exercised.

Since the abortive putsch, authorities have carried out a sweeping crackdown on alleged supporters of the U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom Ankara blames for the coup attempt, detaining 160,000 people and dismissing nearly the same number of civil servants, the United Nations said in March.

The government says the measures are necessary due to the security threats it faces.  

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