Pressure against Turkey’s largest pro-Kurdish bloc is nothing new. But with under three weeks left before the June 24 presidential and parliamentary polls, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is being squeezed more tightly than ever. HDP officials charge that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is trying to prevent the HDP from winning the minimum 10% of the vote needed to take seats in the parliament so as to ensure its continued dominance of the legislative body. Under Turkey’s convoluted rules, the first runner-up in a given electoral district picks up a party’s seat if it fails to scale the national barrier and in the Kurdish-dominated southeast, that would likely be the AKP. An estimated 80 seats are at stake.
The HDP chronicled the chokehold in a report. Between the start of the election campaign on April 28 and June 3, at least 136 HDP officials were detained and 14 of them arrested. The party’s campaign bureaus and stands were attacked. In the southern city of Hatay, unknown assailants shattered the windows of an HDP liaison office and tore down the party’s banners on May 28 just hours after the local governor’s office gathered representatives from parties competing in the race to offer tips on security. The HDP was not invited. In Ankara, HDP offices and street stands were attacked and neighborhood canvassing events interrupted 10 times.
Meral Danis Bestas, an HDP lawmaker representing the southern province of Adana, conceded that while it is impossible to prove the government was orchestrating the attacks, security forces continue to engage in “brazen intimidation tactics.” Bestas told Al-Monitor they include deploying armored police vehicles within close proximity of HDP rallies, unremitting ID checks that “amount to harassment” and unleashing scores of policemen into the crowds who “menacingly” snap photos of attendees. Bestas reiterated charges that provincial governors and other ranking bureaucrats with local army commanders in tow were touring villages and hamlets in the southeast, where they ordered citizen to vote for the AKP “or else.”
Full Article: Electoral noose tightens in Turkey’s critical southeast.