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Electoral noose tightens in Turkey's critical southeast

Turkey's ruling party has the country's largest pro-Kurdish bloc in a chokehold as the clock winds down toward the elections.
A supporter of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) hangs posters of Selahattin Demirtas, the party's jailed former co-leader and the candidate for the upcoming presidential election, during a gathering in Istanbul, Turkey May 4, 2018. REUTERS/Murad Sezer - RC18E770B250

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.

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