April 21, 2015 / 1:38 PM / 2 years ago

Pro-Kurdish party vows to be 'nightmare' for Turkey's Erdogan

Co-chairs of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtas (L) and Figen Yuksekdag, attend a meeting to announces their party's manifesto for the upcoming general election, in Istanbul April 21, 2015. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) vowed on Tuesday to be President Tayyip Erdogan’s “nightmare” if it enters parliament after a June election by blocking his plans for an executive presidency.

Unveiling a leftist election manifesto which reaches beyond its Kurdish grassroots, the HDP also demanded greater rights for women and minorities in Turkey while reaffirming its support for ending a 30-year conflict between the state and Kurdish rebels.

“Our manifesto is the sultan’s nightmare and the dream of all the peoples of Turkey. They have started to see nightmares and they will see a lot more,” joint HDP leader Figen Yuksekdag told a meeting in Istanbul, to applause from party supporters.

Erdogan, sometimes dubbed a ‘sultan’ by critics who accuse him of increasing authoritarianism, said at the weekend it would be a “nightmare” if Turkey’s June 7 election parliamentary election resulted in a coalition government.

His Islamist-rooted AK Party needs to win a two thirds majority to introduce a new constitution centered on a strong executive presidency.

This goal would become much harder if the HDP clears Turkey’s 10 percent parliamentary threshold. With 10 percent, the HDP could win up to 60 seats in Turkey’s 550-member parliament. If the HDP misses the threshold the AK Party could end up with around 30 additional seats.

“In our constitution there will never be a presidential system,” said Yuksekdag, standing side-by-side on stage with joint party leader Selahattin Demirtas.

Opinion polls currently put HDP support near 10 percent. The AK Party, which has governed the country since 2002, easily remains Turkey’s most popular party with 42-48 percent support.

PEACE PROCESS

The HDP’s failure to enter parliament could endanger Erdogan’s peace plan with jailed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan to end the insurgency in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey, which has killed 40,000 people.

The peace process only took up a limited part of the HDP manifesto, reflecting its desire to reach out beyond its Kurdish base, particularly to women, youth and minority voters.

The manifesto pledged to abolish the 10 percent threshold, create women’s and youth ministries, lower the voting age to 16, end compulsory religious education and raise the minimum wage.

Founded in 2012, the HDP is the latest in a series of parties representing the interests of Turkey’s Kurdish minority, but in the past its politicians have run as independents and formed parliamentary groups after entering the assembly.

In the 2011 election, pro-Kurdish candidates garnered 6.5 percent of the vote and won 36 seats. Demirtas won 9.76 percent of the vote in the 2014 presidential election that Erdogan won.

Additional reporting by Gulsen Solaker in Ankara; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Gareth Jones

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