In a written statement on Feb. 9, jailed former HDP Chair Selahattin Demirtaş said it was being conducted “mercantilism” rather than politics in Turkey after the comments on his wife Başak Demirtaş’s intention to run for Istanbul mayorship from the Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party.
Merhabalar,— Başak Demirtaş (@Basak__Demirtas) February 9, 2024
Selahattin aylar sonra, sadece son gelişmeler hakkında yazdı. pic.twitter.com/g6hWvEgwtJ
In January, Başak Demirtaş said she was open to becoming the party's Istanbul mayoral candidate should the people and the party decide to field her. After her announcement, some opposition figures even claimed that Demirtaş made a covert agreement with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to divide Republican People’s Party (CHP) votes in Istanbul in return for Selahattin Demirtaş’s release.
This week, the DEM Party administration and Demirtaş mutually agreed that she would not formally apply for candidacy. On Feb. 9, the DEM Party fielded Meral Danış Beştaş ve Murat Çepni as Istanbul co-mayoral candidates.
“Those who are always looking for a trick under every political move we make think that everyone is like them. It does not occur to anyone that a political move could have been made for a virtuous purpose,” Selahattin Demirtaş said, adding that those people could not understand Başak Demirtaş’s announcement or the DEM Party’s politics.
“The first thing that comes to everyone's mind is that there must have been a dirty bargain, but no one thinks that people can do politics for the development of democracy and peace. Because the dominant way of doing politics has become ‘politics of interests,’ the politics of values has been forgotten,” he noted.
Demirtaş said he had no intention to speak on politics except in trials, “but it was impossible to keep silent when so much speculation was being made about us.” After the 2023 elections, he announced that he has quit active politics, apologizing “for not being able to put forth politics that are deserving of our people.”
“I don't know if there is meeting traffic between the DEM Party and the AKP, but if there is not, this is a great deficiency for both parties. All parties should be able to meet and talk to solve the problems of the country and society. There were meetings between the DEM Party and CHP, which were also reflected in the press. They should meet and talk much more. In the same way, all other parties should be able to talk to each other,” Demirtaş said.
He expressed that Başak Demirtaş intended to run for mayorship “to contribute to creating a political atmosphere in which everyone could talk to everyone, ending polarization.”
“While the funerals of our young sons and daughters are still coming from the mountains to the cities, isn't it more valuable than all the municipal seats for someone to put an effort, apart from the crocodile tears shed by the ‘condemnation of terrorism’ chorus?,” Demirtaş said.
“Başak Demirtaş's will to run as a candidate was to make visible the third way politics that the DEM Party insists on establishing. It was to say, ‘We are not doing politics for seats, offices and rent, but for democracy, justice and peace, which are the urgent needs of the people.’" If anyone says, ‘No, these values are not more important than my municipal seat,’ let them not talk about justice and democracy anymore. Başak Demirtaş's will to run was to open clenched fists and remind us to shake hands,” he added.
Demirtaş also noted that “Başak Demirtaş's will to run was an indication of the sincere and virtuous stance of the Kurdish people and the DEM Party, which has not given up on democracy and peace despite paying the heaviest price. Those who have not paid a single price throughout their lives and who say ‘she negotiated for her husband’, should at least try to be a little moral from now on.”
He added that they would talk to anyone who wants to talk about solving the problems of the Kurdish question, democracy, justice and economy, which “are our priorities.”
“For this, we do not take permission or authorization from anyone. We can never be obliged to answer to those who are fighting for seats. The DEM Party should act with this self-confidence, meet with the main opposition and all other parties, including the ruling party, if it can, and compromise if it can within the framework of principles and for the development of democracy,” he added.
Demirtaş said April 1 and beyond is more important than March 31st, when the local elections will be held.
“The CHP should not see the issue as just about March 31st, but a long-term alliance in the struggle for democracy. The AKP, on the other hand, should see the four years without elections as an opportunity to return to democracy,” he added.
In January, veteran Kurdish politician Leyla Zana urged President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to re-initiate the peace process. "Mr. President had said, 'I put the process on hold.' I think it is necessary to take it out of the hold and deal with this issue from the beginning. Without wasting time... But it seems they are not making such an effort," she said.
Selahattin Demirtaş has been in prison since 2016. He faces hundreds of years in prison on charges related to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) despite a previous European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling that he was imprisoned on political grounds and should be released immediately.