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Monday, March 8, 1999 Published at 18:57 GMT


World: Europe

Kurdish party poised for elections

Kurdish demonstrators demanding freedom in Turkey`

By Chris Morris in Ankara

The main legal Kurdish party in Turkey looks increasingly set to take part in next month's general elections.

The Ocalan File
The party, known as Hadep, received a major boost when the constitutional court rejected a request by the Chief Prosecutor Vural Savas to ban the party.

The court is continuing to consider a case brought by the prosecutor to close the party down altogether. But that is highly unlikely to happen before the elections.

The Constitutional Court unanimously rejected the chief prosecutor's request to stop it entering the elections. It gave no reasons in public because the investigation into whether Hadep should be closed down permanently is still continuing.

Allegations

Mr Savas has alleged that Hadep has direct links with the Kurdish rebel movement, the PKK. He has argued that the party took its instructions from the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan before he was captured by the Turkish authorities last month.

Hadep has strongly denied the charge. It admits that it shares many of the PKK's goals for political change, but it has always campaigned on a peaceful basis.

Now the party has a chance to prove that many people in the mainly Kurdish southeast of the country share its concerns.

Testing the water

Legal analysts say the closure case against Hadep will not finish before the elections, so the party will be able to test its popular support for the first time.

Diplomats in Ankara and even rival politicians in the southeast agree that Hadep will emerge as the biggest party in the region if it is allowed to compete fairly.

It will probably not gain any seats in parliament because it would have to win 10% of the national vote to qualify.

But it can win important local elections, taking control of municipal government in several towns and cities.

If Hadep performs as well as most people expect, it will be a huge embarrassment for official state policy, which says there is no such thing as a Kurdish problem.



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