Başak Demirtaş, wife of imprisoned Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, announced on Feb. 7 that she would not be running as Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party's mayoral candidate for the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality after coming to a mutual decision with the party.
Demirtaş’s statement read, “I had expressed my readiness to assume the candidacy for Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality to support my party’s meticulous local election campaign.”
She met with DEM Party representatives on Feb. 5 to discuss her potential candidacy. “I was honored to hear that the Party felt strengthened by my willingness statement,” Demirtaş said.
Upon discussions, DEM Party administration and Demirtaş mutually agreed that she would not formally apply for candidacy. Demirtaş emphasized that the decision was made in absolute consensus and coordination.
She thanked DEM Party administration and constituents for their support and trust in her during the candidacy discussions. “We will embrace and support the candidates our party will nominate in the coming weeks,” she maintained.
Selahattin Demirtaş commented on the decision during DEM Party representatives visited him in Edirne Prison. Referring to the rumors about tension between DEM Party and the Demirtaş's, he reassured that there was no bad blood. "Please ignore those who wish to confuse our voters" the imprisoned formed HDP co-chair said.
Previously, she had said during an interview with the online news platform Artı Gerçek that she was open to becoming the party's Istanbul mayoral candidate should the people and the party decide to field her.
Demirtaş’s statement of willingness sparked controversy among the ranks and supporters of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). As a beloved figure in pro-Kurdish politics, Demirtaş could split the opposition votes in the upcoming Istanbul mayoral election.
Some opposition figures even claimed that Demirtaş made a covert agreement with AKP to divide CHP votes in return for Selahattin Demirtaş’s release.
DEM Party has been steadfast about fielding candidates in major provinces for the upcoming local elections, as they no longer wanted to sacrifice their base to support another opposition candidate.
Party chair Tuncay Bakırhan stated on multiple occasions that they no longer agreed to be stuck between a rock and a hard place.
In the previous local elections of 2019, the HDP, DEM Party's predecessor, and opposition İYİ (Good) Party did not field candidates for Istanbul and the capital Ankara provinces to strengthen CHP candidates against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
The strategy paid off, and CHP candidates won metropolitan municipalities with narrow margins. The fate of the 2024 local elections is unclear as the opposition alliance has crumbled.
AKP, CHP, and former opposition ally İYİ Party have announced their mayoral candidates for Istanbul. DEM Party and former government ally Islamist New Welfare Party (YRP) are expected to declare their candidates in the coming weeks. The local elections will be held on March 31.