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Turkey's pro-Kurdish party quits parliament following arrest of leadership

The HDP said it would no longer be taking part in parliamentary sessions [AFP]

Date of publication: 6 November, 2016

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The Peoples' Democratic Party [HDP] said it will stop attending parliamentary sessions after nine of its MPs, including the two co-leaders, were arrested on Friday.
Turkey's main pro-Kurdish party on Sunday said it was pulling out of parliament after nine of its MPs including the two co-leaders were arrested in an unprecedented crackdown. 

The Peoples' Democratic Party [HDP], the third-largest party in this legislature, said it would no longer be taking part in general sessions of parliament or commission work. 

The arrest on Friday of the MPs, including charismatic party leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, added to tensions as Turkey wages a relentless battle against Kurdish militants and deals with the aftermath of the July failed coup.

Clampdown

The move also compounded concerns among Turkey's Western allies that the state of emergency imposed after the coup bid is being used for a general crackdown against critics of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and not just the suspected plotters.

On Saturday, an Istanbul court ordered the jailing pending trial of nine executives and editorial staff from the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper.

Some 35,000 people have been arrested after the coup bid, which Ankara blames on the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, while tens of thousands more have been fired from their jobs.

The latest arrests of the HDP MPs prompted the Turkish authorities to restrict access to social media and VPN applications. and also led to more heavy losses for the embattled Turkish lira.

'Turning point'

The HDP said instead of sitting in parliament, its remaining MPs who are not under arrest will go from "house to house, village to village and district to district" to meet people.

It said that at the end of these consultations, proposals will be made over how to go forward.

The absence of HDP from parliament could enable Erdogan to push through his vision of a presidential system which the HDP has always vehemently opposed

The HDP has 59 seats in parliament and their absence could enable Erdogan to push through his vision of a presidential system which the HDP has always vehemently opposed.

HDP party spokesman Ayhan Bilgen, calling Turkey at a "turning point", told local media that any decision on whether to replace the imprisoned Demirtas and Yuksekdag at the helm of the party while they were jailed would be taken in the next days.

They have been charged with membership and promotion of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK]. 

The HDP has always vehemently denied being a front for the PKK, which has waged an over three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state in search of greater rights and autonomy for the Kurdish minority. 

Integrating the Kurdish movement into mainstream politics was a key plank of the peace process once spearheaded by Erdogan which collapsed when a truce ruptured in 2015.

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