DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (A.W.)—Voters in Turkey headed to the polls on June 7 in what may prove to be one of the most critical elections in the country’s modern history. The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) hopes to break the 10 percent barrier to send MPs to parliament, preventing the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) from gaining enough seats to change the constitution.
There are 53.5 million eligible voters and 550 parliamentary seats to fill. In the 2011 parliamentary elections, the pro-Kurdish party (then named BDP) candidates ran as independents to avoid the 10 percent barrier; 36 of them were elected.
HDP candidates this year include Armenians, Yezidis, and Assyrians alongside Kurds. HDP also has 268 female candidates, the highest number of women among the political parties running for election. During the presidential elections last year, HDP’s candidate secured 9.76 percent of the votes.
Among HDP’s Armenian candidates are Murad Mihçi, Filor Uluk Benli, and Garapet (Garo) Paylan. The ruling AKP’s list also has an Armenian candidate, Markar Esayan, who is a columnist in the daily pro-AKP Aksam newspaper. Another Armenian, Selina Özuzun Doğan, is running on the Republican People’s Party (CHP) list.
On June 5, two explosions hit the city of Diyarbakir, where HDP co-chairman Selahattin Demirtaş was scheduled to make a public appearance. At least 2 deaths were reported following the attack, and more than 200 people were wounded. Despite their injuries—some severe—photos of the bandaged voters casting their ballots went viral on social media.
On May 18, two explosions had targeted HDP offices in Mersin and Adana. The attack in Mersin reportedly took place ahead of a public rally when Demirtaş was scheduled to speak.
The AKP needs 367 seats in order to introduce the “new constitution,” an objective President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has talked about on many occasions. The new constitution would turn Turkey from a parliamentary system into an executive presidency, giving the president more powers.
Armenian Weekly correspondent Gulisor Akkum filed this report from Diyarbakir.