HDP looking for new figures to replace Demirtaş

HDP looking for new figures to replace Demirtaş

The pro-PKK Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) is considering candidates to replace Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-chairman of the party who is currently on trial in a number of terror-related charges, after he announced that he will not run for office in the upcoming congress.

With less than a month to elect its next co-chairman, the party is yet to discuss the issue in detail although a few names have been mentioned for the post, including the HDP's Şanlıurfa Deputy Osman Baydemir, the spokesperson of the party and Kars Deputy Ayhan Bilgen, and Ankara Deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder.

Demirtaş, who has held the position since June 2014, communicated his decision to the party Thursday. In a letter, he confirmed that he did not want to run for the party chairmanship in the upcoming ordinary congress on Feb. 11.

Baydemir was the mayor of his hometown in the southeastern province Diyarbakır for 10 years from 2004 to 2014. Currently, he is being charged with several terror-related offences.

Önder was elected as a member of Parliament in 2011 as an independent candidate and became Istanbul's mayoral candidate for the HDP. In 2015, he was re-elected as a deputy for the HDP.

Bilgen, on the other hand, became a mayoral candidate for the HDP for the Seyhan district of the southern city of Adana. In 2015, he was elected as the Kars deputy of the HDP to Parliament and became the first spokesperson of the party.

The HDP will discuss Demirtaş's decision in a series of meetings before the congress before a final decision on the issue is made by the competent bodies of the party.

Earlier, Demirtaş demanded that the party members do not change the party code, which does not allow a member to be a chairman for more than two terms. However, after an evaluation process in the Party Assembly, it was decided that there was no obstacle for Demirtaş to run for a third term since he was elected once in a normal congress and once in an extraordinary congress.

HDP's Central Executive Committee had agreed that Demirtaş was unarguably the co-chairman candidate of the party.

In addition to the meetings with the HDP deputies, the competent bodies of the party will also hold talks, where they will handle issues like policies and who will be the next co-chairman of the party. There will be 15 different conferences all around Turkey in January.

Demirtaş, who has been active in pro-PKK political circles since the early 2000s, has served as a deputy from Diyarbakır, Hakkari and Istanbul provinces since 2007. He also ran in the 2014 presidential elections, finishing third with 9.76 percent of the votes.

Demirtaş was initially an active figure in the reconciliation process between the PKK and the Turkish government but once the Syrian civil war gave the PKK more room to exploit people in Syria through its offshoot the Democratic Union Party (PYD), he adopted a more hawkish tone and started calling on the Kurdish population to riot against the Turkish state in the face of terror operations against the PKK.

In October 2014, amid the Daesh siege on PYD-held Kobani, Demirtaş and other HDP officials called for a major riot, dubbed as the Oct. 6-7 Kobani protests, where more than 40 people were killed and some 500 others were injured in clashes between pro-PKK, conservative Kurdish groups and the security forces across Turkey, especially in the southeast.

The HDP has come under fire for its close links to the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S., and the European Union. Members of the party have so far declined to call the PKK a "terrorist group," and they have attended the funerals of several PKK militants, two of whom were suicide bombers that killed tens of civilians in multiple attacks in Ankara.

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