ANKARA (Reuters) -Turkey's pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and its allies will not field a presidential candidate in May, the party said on Wednesday, raising the prospect of the opposition uniting against President Tayyip Erdogan's re-election bid.
The HDP also said it will run for parliament under the Green Left Party to circumvent its potential closure, a plan that its co-leader said had been brewing since the case was launched at the Constitutional Court in mid-2021.
Erdogan is facing the biggest challenge to his rule in his more than two decades of leading Turkey, with recent polls showing him trailing Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the candidate of the Nation Alliance, made up of six parties.
But the HDP votes will be crucial for the opposition to exceed the 50% required to elect the president on May 14 and also secure a majority in parliament in the polls on the same day.
"In the presidential elections, we will carry out our responsibility against the one-man rule... We will not field a candidate in presidential elections," HDP co-leader Pervin Buldan said at a news conference on Wednesday.
Buldan did not openly say whether her alliance would support Kilicdaroglu, after they had met on Monday. The HDP's cooperation with the opposition in 2019 local elections helped defeat AKP's mayoral candidates in major cities.
The HDP is the third-biggest party in parliament with more than 10% support nationwide and is seen playing a decisive role in the presidential election on May 14.
Former HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtas, who has been in jail since 2016 over what the party says are political reasons, has previously voiced support for Kilicdaroglu, who is the leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP).
GREEN LEFT PARTY
The HDP has faced a crackdown since the collapse in 2015 of Ankara's peace process with the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), designated a terrorist group by Turkey and its Western allies.
Thousands of HDP members, lawmakers and mayors have been jailed or stripped of their positions in recent years over alleged links to terrorism, which the party denies.
The HDP faces a case at the Constitutional Court, Turkey's highest, for its closure over charges it has links to Kurdish militants and could be banned from the May vote. HDP says the case is political.
On Wednesday, the court rejected the party's request to postpone its oral defence until after elections from its current date of April 11.
Co-leader Mithat Sancar said the HDP's candidates for parliament will run under the Green Left Party to circumvent the potential closure ahead of elections. "We couldn't have left this process up to the mercy of the government, to the initiative of the court," he said.
The HDP has experience from previous party closures and had been making alternative plans since the closure case was launched at the Constitutional Court, Sancar said in a televised interview with broadcaster Halk TV.
The Green Left Party has recently adopted an emblem similar to that of the HDP.
(Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Jonathan Spicer, Alison Williams and Jonathan Oatis)