8 August 2014

Some twenty years younger than his rivals, we believe that Selahattin Demirtas genuinely represents a new generation and the emergence of a new politics in Turkey, one where the voices of the Kurds can be heard in unison with other minorities and oppressed groups in making demands for a new political agenda for change. Demirtas emphatically stands for peace and a progressive platform. By standing in this election, Demirtas has provided the Turkish voter will a real choice and the level of support that he receives in the ballot box will have a far reaching impact on the future direction that the country will take.

Demirtas is the third candidate in the presidential race, running against AKP candidate and current Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu the joint candidate of the two main opposition parties, the CHP and MHP. Erdogan and İhsanoğlu stand for religious conservative politics of the kind Turkey has seen much of in the last several years, whereas Demirtas offers a much needed alternative that pursues the aim of an open, pluralistic, democratic Turkish society.


A vote for Demirtas is a vote for change. As HDP deputy chairwoman, Haltice Altinisik, told a journalist from al-Monitor, “Please remember — even if we are perceived as a pro-Kurdish party, look around here. We are also pro-women, pro-Alevi, pro-Christian, pro-Muslim and pro-peace. When you listen to Demirtas, I believe you hear he is also in support of the working class, the oppressed. So being a Kurd is just one of the identities around you. We aim to unite the left in Turkey.” With this assessment, we could not agree more.

Demirtas’s candidature continues the spirit of hope and resistance ignited in Gezi Park, when a broad coalition of social forces came together to fight for their rights in a new Turkey. The foundation of the new party, the HDP, was a further embodiment of this process of political change.
The HDP reflects the efforts of the Kurdish community to reach out to its natural allies among progressives with the Turkish community and build an alliance with a broader progressive social constituency in the country than has so far occurred.

This represents a new stage in the political strategy of the Kurdish movement, which continues to strive for revolutionary democratic change in Turkey. Building on broad electoral support gained by the pro-Kurdish BDP, Demirtas’s election campaign for the HDP is the latest phase in a much more long term political project whose ultimate objective is to see the demands of the Kurds seriously addressed and accepted among Turkish society.

However, whatever the outcome of the upcoming election, the first round of which takes place on 10 August, the real political breakthrough is that Demirtas was ever permitted to stand in the first place. His alternative agenda for change, social justice and peace has effectively challenged the limits of traditional Turkish politics, in marked contrast to the rhetoric and ideology espoused by Erdogan and Ihsanoglu, who clearly represent an older generation not only in age but more importantly in their outlook.

It remains to be seen how successful Demirtas’s message has been in inspiring the Turkish and Kurdish peoples and whether his energetic campaign will translate into attracting support from the country’s voters. We do hope that people in huge numbers use their vote wisely to bring about a much needed change in Turkey; a vote for Demirtas is clearly a vote for change and will be a sign of hope.