The Presidential Elections Factsheet

Who are the candidates of this most unfair elections and how the HDP turned adversity into a creative and bold campaign?

On Sunday people in Turkey will vote both to renew the Parliament and to elect the new President.

Current President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called for very early elections in both the parliamentary and president contest. In fact elections were scheduled for 2019. Already dubbed as among the most unfair, unequal, unjust and uneven ever held throughout 150 years of Turkey's elections history, the 24 June elections, were called by the government in a desperate attempt to escape from the negative consequences of the economic and financial meltdown anticipated to hit Turkey in late 2018 or early 2019.

Furthermore, Erdoğan conceded to his fascist ally, the MHP lead by Devlet Bahçeli, a snap election aimed at saving its political future. “A wishful tactic - as HDP MP Ertuğrul Kürkçü pointed out - to pull the opposition into the “ambush” while sidelining Bahçeli”. 

Following the approval of constitutional changes in the referendum held in 2017, the elected President will be both the head of state and head of government, taking over the latter role from the to-be-abolished office of the Prime Minister.

The President is directly elected through the two-round system, under which a candidate must obtain at least 50%+1 of the vote in order to be elected. If no candidate secures an overall majority outright, then a runoff is held between the two most voted-for candidates from the first round, the winner of which is then declared elected.

The first direct election to the Turkish presidency was held in 2014, after a referendum in 2007 abolished the previous system under which the head of state was elected by the Grand National Assembly.

One of the main issue which make this election unfair is the fact that one of the candidates, namely HDP Selahattin Demirtaş is in prison and he has virtually being denied the rights granted to the other candidates.

Despite being in jail and being the target of a smear campaign by Erdoğan, Selahattin Demirtaş has proved that with a bit of creativity and imagination mixed with a good dose of boldness, even the harshest of conditions can be turned into a campaign employing fantasy as well as rigour in the messages sent to voters.

HDP Presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş has inaugurated this new way of running an election campaign choosing twitter to explain how he is delivering the party message even from behind bars.

In an article Demirtaş explained why those elections are so important for Turkey:

“As we approach the 24 June elections I would like to underline a few things I deem worth remembering again. First of all, these elections could actually be a landmark and affect politics in Turkey for the next ten years. Either the one-man authoritarian regime embodied by the AKP mentality will declare the final victory and doubled the atrocities made so far to turn into a full dictatorship, or we will continue to go down the path leading to the strengthening of the quest for democracy as we have done throughout the history of the Republic”.

Former HDP co-chair Demirtaş has been in prison since 4 November 2016, accused of spreading propaganda for the PKK. He was detained together with his homologue, Figen Yüksekdağ and several other HDP MPs who had been stripped of their immunity.

This is not the first time Demirtaş run for president. Indeed, he got 9.77% of the votes in the Presidential elections of 2014, ending up in the third place and showing that, despite all obstacles, an alternative in Turkey was possible. 

A life for Kurdish people

Demirtaş was born in Elazığ in 1973. He studied law at Ankara university and after graduation he worked as a lawyer, before becoming a member of the executive committee of the Amed (Diyarbakır) branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD).

Terms in Parliament

In 2011 Demirtaş contested the parliamentary elections in the list named ‘Labor, Democracy and Freedom’, supported by the BDP and several other political organisations. He was elected MP for Hakkari.

Running for President

In 2014, following the creation of a new initiative, the HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) aimed at consolidating the three year old coalition of the BDP and the other left wing political parties and organisations, Demirtaş run as a candidate for the Presidential elections.

Elected HDP co-chair together with Figen Yüksekdağ, Selahattin Demirtaş contested the first general elections as a candidate for the party. The HDP won 13.12% of the votes and ended up fourth granting the party 80 of the 550 seats in Parliament.

It was a huge success for the HDP. And indeed a satisfied Demirtaş stated: “From now on, the HDP is Turkey’s party. HDP is Turkey, Turkey is HDP”.

Detention and trial

After the 15 July 2016 coup, President Erdoğan, closed even more the circle around the HDP: thousands of party members, democratically elected mayors and councilors, executives, were detained.

The same HDP co-chairs were detained on 4 November 2016.

On 18 January 2017 the Turkish prosecutor announced he was seeking a 142-year prison sentence for the HDP co-chair, accused of “making propaganda for an illegal organisation”.

Who is running for President?

Apart from the HDP candidate, Selahattin Demirtaş, there is of course current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is running for the People’s Alliance (Cumhur İttifakı)

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) has nominated Muharrem Ince, a member of the parliament known for his opposition and speeches against Erdoğan.

Meral Akşener, the founder and leader of Iyi Party is also running, like Temel Karamollaoğlu, leader of the Felicity Party. Leader of Patriotic Party, Doğu Perinçek is also running, having collected like Akşener and Karamollaoğlu the 100,000 signatures required to present a candidature.