Turkey elections: PKK extends ceasefire until polls close

The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) said on Tuesday it will extend its unilateral ceasefire in its conflict with Turkish authorities until after Turkey’s May 14 presidential and parliamentary elections.

Bese Hozat, co-chairman of the armed group’s executive council, told a PKK-linked outlet that the elections were of historic importance to the “Turkish people” and that the PKK had decided to maintain its “inaction” during the election period.

“We will evaluate this decision after the elections,” she said, adding that the PKK would continue to fight if it came under fire from Turkish forces.

Turkey, the US and the EU view the PKK, which seeks Kurdish independence, as a terrorist group because of the deadly attacks it has launched against civilians since the 1990s.

The group has lost significant influence and presence in southern Turkey since Ankara began a new strategy to combat its fighters in northern Iraq in 2019, using sophisticated weapons such as armed drones and building dozens of poles out. The strategy cut off the PKK’s access to Turkey from its main base in the Qandil mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan.

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Hozat also said that the PKK supports the decision of the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) not to name a presidential candidate. “The way of the HDP is important and valuable and within the scope of its principles,” she said.

The HDP, which accounts for more than 10 percent of the electorate and is seen as a potential kingmaker, is tacitly backing fellow opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu, chairman of the center-left Republican People’s Party (CHP). However, he cannot become an official member of the Kildaraoglu Nation Alliance due to objections from nationalist and conservative Turkish parties.

The HDP is currently fighting in Turkey’s Constitutional Court against attempts to shut down the party over alleged links to the PKK, which it denies. Its leaders decided to run their candidates for parliament under another political organization called the Green Left Alliance (YSP) to circumvent a possible shutdown before the elections.

The party is in alliance with other left-wing parties, such as the Turkish Workers’ Party (TIP) and the Labor Party (EMEP), under the name Labor and Freedom Alliance.

While the HDP was negotiating an electoral strategy to run a joint list for parliament with its allies, the TIP was refusing to do so. Last year, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) changed the election rules in favor of larger parties and encourages smaller parties to stand for parliament on joint lists.

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