Support in presidential election not guaranteed, BDP leader warns PM

The leader of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), Selahattin Demirtas, has warned that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan should not take the BDP’s support for granted in the upcoming presidential election race.

“Nobody should think that Cankaya [the presidential residence] is a done deal,” Demirtas said at his party’s parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday. “You will see this when the [election] campaign begins,” he added.

Demirtas also criticized Erdogan for the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) efforts to convert the country’s election system to the first-past-the-post model in an effort to move the country to a presidential system ahead of the general elections scheduled to be held in June next year.

According to Demirtas, the presidential system the prime minister plans to put in place — replacing the country’s parliamentary democracy, in which a president is endowed with comparatively less power — is part of a project to legitimize the semi-dictatorial ruling style Erdogan espouses. “In August, a “head of state” (cumhurbaskani) rather than a “president” (baskan) will be elected,” Demirtas said in reference to a recent remark by Erdogan that the people would elect their “baskan” in the presidential elections to be held on Aug. 10.

“If you imagine that you will be seated in the presidential palace, that will not be easy. You will see that is not yet in the bag,” Demirtas added. Claiming that the ruling party is losing the support of voters with each passing day, the BDP leader maintained that vote rigging increased the AK Party’s share of the vote by 7-8 percent in the recently held local elections.

The BDP leader also announced its deputies would, as of next week, continue their activities as part of its sister party, the Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP), although he noted that the BDP, which recently merged with the HDP, would not abolish itself as a political party.

The HDP was reportedly founded under orders from Abdullah Ocalan — imprisoned leader of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — in an effort to enable the BDP to appeal to all voters, rather than just Kurds. Members of some of Turkey’s marginal left-wing parties are also represented in the HDP.