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The rapid rise and fall of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party

Selahattin Demirtas, who led the Peoples’ Democratic Party to electoral success in Turkish politics, is now presiding over its downfall.

Half a year ago, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) spearheaded by Selahattin Demirtas, its young, charismatic leader, was the rising star in Turkish politics. The party, with its roots in the violent Kurdish political movement dominated by the armed and illegal Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), had recast itself as a left-liberal, inclusive peacenik movement and a bulwark against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s growing authoritarianism. As a result, it emerged from the June 7 general elections with some 13.1% of the vote, doubling its usual mandate. Since then, however, the HDP’s meteoric rise has been reversed by a meteoric fall.

In the Nov. 1 snap elections, the HDP vote declined to 10.8%, resulting in the party losing 21 of the 80 parliamentary seats it had won just five months earlier. More recently, prominent voices in the mainstream, secular-liberal media who had supported Demirtas, or at least seemed sympathetic to his cause, began to oppose him and his party. Many political commentators believe the HDP “squandered” the opportunity it had created earlier in the year and will never regain it.

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