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Iran Press TV

Fair election impossible in Turkey, says jailed ex-head of pro-Kurdish opposition

Iran Press TV

Sat May 5, 2018 03:12PM

Turkey's Kurdish opposition presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtas has dismissed the likelihood of a free and fair election under the current state of emergency in the country.

"Demonstrations are banned, talking is banned, criticizing the government is banned, even defending peace is considered terror propaganda," Demirtas said on Friday in a hand-written response to questions submitted to his lawyers.

"Hundreds of opposition journalists are arrested, dozens of TV and radio channels are closed," he added.

"It is impossible for there to be fair elections in such an environment," Demirtas said.

The People's Democratic Party (HDP), Turkey's second largest opposition party, announced Demirtas as its candidate for the country's June presidential election on Friday, despite the fact that he is currently imprisoned and on trial in several legal cases.

The 45-year-old politician was a candidate against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AK Party (AKP) in the August 2014 presidential election and led the HDP into parliament for the first time in the June 2015 vote.

The politician was arrested in November 2016 in a crackdown that followed the July 2016 coup attempt and was put on trial in several cases, especially on charges of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militant group. Turkish prosecutors have called for an imprisonment term of up to 142 years for him.

In February, the HDP replaced Demirtas as its co-leader after he indicated his political career was over while in custody.

In his Friday interview, Demirtas stressed that there was "no legal obstacle to my candidacy because I am not convicted," adding that it would be a "scandal and a crime" if the courts blocked his candidacy.

"The AKP government is losing its support rapidly. The economy is also being dragged into a crisis. The government plans to control the state before hitting rock-bottom," he said.

"The people in Turkey are fed up with the AKP and want to get rid of them, and the AKP surely knows this," the opposition leader pointed out.

Turkey will hold snap presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24, previously slated to be held next year. Erdogan started campaigning for his re-election on Saturday, saying he would certainly win the vote.

Erdogan should have waited for elections until November 3, 2019 to be able to rule Turkey under an executive presidency. The Turkish leader won a narrow support for the new governance system in the April 2017 referendum to change the constitution. His extended powers were expected to take effect until after the presidential election.

While the government argues the constitutional changes will streamline decision-making, the opposition calls it a scenario to create a one-man regime.

On Friday, Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) presented senior legislator Muharrem Ince as its presidential candidate. The 54-year-old former physics teacher is known for his fiery and impassioned rhetoric.

Ince, CHP's deputy leader, was unanimously selected by all of the 110 CHP MPs as the best rival the party can present for the rhetorically-gifted Erdogan.

The election is planned to be held under the state of emergency that has been in place since the coup attempt.

Under the state of emergency, Turkey has been engaged in suppressing the media and opposition groups suspected to have played a role in the failed coup.

Tens of thousands of people have been arrested across the country and over 140,000 others, including military staff, civil servants and journalists, have been sacked or suspended from work over the same accusations.

The international community and rights groups have been highly critical of the Turkish president over the massive dismissals and the crackdown.

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