Turkey Court Rules to Hear Case Seeking Ban on Kurdish Party

Turkey’s top court agreed Monday to hear the government’s case for outlawing the leading pro-Kurdish political party, a move that would weaken a significant foe of the increasingly vulnerable President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Constitutional Court accepted an expanded indictment against the Peoples’ Democratic Party, or HDP, on separatism charges, after rejecting a previous indictment for procedural flaws in March, NTV television said. The case is being closely watched in the U.S., which has criticized it as potentially subverting the will of Turkish voters, and tilting the outcome of 2023 elections for president and parliament.

Turkey wants to disband the HDP, freeze its bank accounts and bar more than 450 of its members from politics due to alleged ties to autonomy-seeking Kurdish militants. The HDP, which is the third-biggest party in parliament, denies it’s influenced by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and European Union as well as Turkey.

“This is a campaign of political blackmail and intimidation by the government. The real prosecutor behind this case is the government,” Mithat Sancar, co-chairman of the HDP, told a televised press conference. “The target of this case is to destroy democracy, choke hopes of freedom and bury hopes of peace” in the country.

If the HDP is outlawed, Kurdish politicians might try to form a new bloc or contest elections as independents, but their political clout could be reduced. The case comes amid growing discontent over the Erdogan government’s handling of the economy and allegations of corruption against him from a mafia boss, which he’s dismissed.

The HDP won 80 parliament seats in 2015, temporarily denying Erdogan’s AK Party a majority. Authorities later jailed its leaders and removed Kurdish mayors from office, but the party hasn’t been cowed. It secured nearly 12% of votes in the last parliamentary election in 2018, and its since-jailed co-chairman, Selahattin Demirtas, won more than 8% of ballots in that race.

A year later the HDP helped Turkey’s main opposition party win mayoral races in the capital, Ankara, and commercial hub Istanbul, by actively campaigning for its candidates and not fielding opponents. Erdogan’s top nationalist ally, Devlet Bahceli, has pressed for action against the HDP ahead of the elections in two years’ time.

A trial could drag on for months or even years. The prosecution would need at least 10 of the top court’s 15 judges to conclude that the HDP is trying to divide the country along ethnic lines -- a charge authorities invoked in the past when shutting down the party’s predecessors for alleged ties to the PKK.

Judges could also decide to freeze or cut financial aid to the party from the treasury that was set at about $7.7 million for 2021.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.