In this file photograph taken on July 23, 2016, then co-leader of the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party, Selahattin Demirtas, speaks during a rally against the military coup and the state of emergency at the Gazi district in Istanbul. Photo: Ozan Kose | AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Turkish presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtas slammed the ruling government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, calling it "corrupt" and blaming it for not ensuring gender equality, and protecting pensions.
“The biggest problem for the youth in Turkey is corruption which has accompanied with AKP governance,” wrote imprisoned Demirtas in a statement released by his lawyer.
Demirtas, a former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish HDP, promised "youth cards" of 500 lira ($117) per month, explaining they could be used to uplift the younger generation via “transportation, eating, cultural and social activities.”
“Instead of saying, ‘I can resolve youth issues in the best way,’ one has to say that issues will be better resolved “by the youth, themselves,' " he argued.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the incumbent president and leads the AKP-dominated government. A 51-49 constitutional referendum prevailed in 2017, changing governance into a presidential system and allowing Erdogan to head the party while remaining president.
Parliament approved snap elections to be held on June 24 under a state of emergency at Erdogan's request.
Students and academics have been rounded up by the thousands since the failed military coup of 2016. In March riot police detained
seven students at prestigious Istanbul University after Erdogan accused them of behaving like "terrorists" for staging an action opposing the Afrin operation.
Erdogan has also shifted
the country away from Ataturk's more secular policies and violence has against women has increased
Demirtas said that providing women with equality is not merely mercy by men.
"Women do not belong to us but themselves," he said. "If women are not equal and free, the community will never be free.”
He promised to take “more serious administrative, legal, cultural actions” against violence against women, if elected. Demirtas pledged to increase the number of care education centers for children.
The HDP candidate claimed the country has 12 million pensioners — one-third of whom don't work. He proposed a 1,000 lira ($234) monthly payment for older people.
To encourage domestic and international travel, Demirtas promised a 50-percent flight discount for pensioners who want to travel using state-operated airlines.
Erdogan also released his campaign manifesto this week, vowing to support everyone who contributes to the economy.
"From employer to employee, from administrator to officer, from investor to tradesmen, all who contribute to the economy of the country would again find us beside them," Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency quoted the incumbent president as saying on Sunday.
Erdogan pledged to curb inflation, national debt, and reduce interest rates.
“With the presidential government system, national income will increase and — since it will spread further in the base — the gap between the income groups will close rapidly,” he said.
Erdogan promised tangible investment in industry.
“Our projects in the domestic automobile and defense industries will be swiftly implemented," he said.
Erdogan promised to remove obstacles that would secure greater personal freedoms.
"Ensuring prosperity of our nation is as important as removing obstacles to freedom of thought and faith, securing individual freedoms," he said.
Addressing, gender-based violence, abuse, and harassment, Erdogan called them "major crimes against humanity."
Erdogan has been president since 2014.
Under Erdogan, Turkey has played a larger role in Middle Eastern politics, notably in Qatar and Syria.
“Turkey is becoming an important power in the world. Turkey will be a global power, a leading force," Erdogan said.
His ruling AKP party is in a coalition with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
Four opposition parties — Republican People’s Party (CHP), IYI (Good) Party, Saadet (Felicity) Party, and Democratic Party (DP) are in a coalition called the Nation Alliance. CHP selected outspoken deputy head Muharrem Ince as its presidential candidate on Friday.
Five Kurdish parties have formed the Kurdistan Coalition, but none of them currently have seats in Turkey's Grand Assembly.
Demirtas, a charismatic politician who appealed to Kurds and leftists, garnered 9.76 percent of the vote in presidential elections in 2014.
Parliamentary, provincial, and presidential elections are set for June 24.