CHP presidential candidate İnce visits rival Demirtaş in Turkish prison

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) presidential candidate Muharrem İnce on Wednesday visited pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy and presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş in Edirne Prison, where he has been incarcerated since November 2016.

İnce travelled to Edirne for an election rally on Wednesday afternoon and paid a visit to Demirtaş before the event.

Demirtaş was the HDP’s co-chairperson when he was jailed on Nov. 4, 2016 along with several other party deputies as well as the party’s other co-chairperson, Figen Yüksekdağ. Demirtaş, who faces terror charges, is still in pre-trial detention and not convicted of any crime.

Many including İnce have been calling for Demirtaş’s release during the presidential campaign period so the election can take place in a democratic environment and under equal conditions for all the presidential candidates.

Demirtaş’s campaign will reportedly appeal to voters of all parties and highlight a process  of normalization in Turkey. If he is not released from prison, Demirtaş will conduct his campaign with messages sent from prison through his lawyers.

Demirtaş ran against incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the 2014 presidential election and lost. However, he has remained one of the most popular political figures in Turkey.

Following the İnce’s visit Demirtaş released a statement through his lawyers from the prison and stated that: “First of all, I extend my thanks to Mr. Muharrem İnce for his visit. Injustices experienced in our country for a long time continue in the election process too. I find Mr. İnce’s visit meaningful and important in terms of both exposing these injustices in my person and political courtesy.

“Me and my friends are being held hostage behind bars. However, outside (of prison) is unfortunately not any different from a semi-open prison.

“State of Emergency (OHAL) conditions, one-voice media, injustices like threats of dismissal and arrest, mobilization of the state’s resources for a single presidential candidate and profiling of the opponents make it impossible to run the election campaign under equal circumstances. I hope that elections will pave the way for democracy, freedoms and peace in spite of this unjust contest.

“Again, I believe that a constructive language and manner to be adopted by the candidates and parties in the election campaign will make significant contributions to eliminate social polarisation.

“Beyond being a political message to our voters, this visit by Mr. İnce is an example of humanitarian solidarity with political courtesy. In this way, despite the fact that our political views differ, no matter who will win in the end of the election campaign, we will be contributing to social reconciliation and culture of peace. I would particularly like to express my gladness over Mr. İnce acting with this perspective.

“Of course, our people deserve the best of everything. Despite all the obstacles, repression and challenges, me and my party HDP will run our election campaign with this perspective for an honorable representation of the oppressed.

“On this occasion, I wish success to Mr. İnce and other candidates, and thank him again for his visit and humanitarian solidarity.

“I hope the elections will lead to goodness for our country and people.”

Meanwhile, İnce also met with Erdoğan, who is the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) presidential candidate for the June 24 elections, late Wednesday. The meeting at the AKP headquarters in Ankara lasted for 40 minutes. AKP’s Parliamentary Group Deputy Chairman Mustafa Elitaş and CHP’s Parliamentary Group Deputy Chairman Engin Altay also participated in the meeting.

After the meeting, İnce told reporters that he had a chat with Erdoğan and wished him and his party success in the upcoming elections. Elitaş said Erdoğan and İnce had a friendly conversation and wished each other success.

Also on Wednesday, the number of presidential candidates increased to six after three out of four presidential candidates whose parties do not have a parliamentary group passed the 100,000-signature threshold to enter the presidential elections scheduled for June 24. The Higher Board of Elections (YSK) officially announced the candidates later in the day.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, CHP deputy Muharrem İnce and HDP’s Selahattin Demirtaş were nominated as presidential candidates by their parties’ parliamentary groups. Leaders of the Felicity Party (SP), Temel Karamollaoğlu; the İYİ Party, Meral Akşener; the Patriotic Party (VP), Doğu Perinçek; and the Justice Party (AP), Vecdet Öz appealed to become candidates by collecting the necessary number of signatures.

While Akşener and Karamollaoğlu collected enough signatures in the first days, Perinçek barely passed the 100,000 threshold on Wednesday. Öz failed to collect sufficient signatures and lost the right to enter the presidential elections.

Turkey will hold snap presidential and general elections on June 24, a year and a half earlier than original scheduled. (SCF with

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