Turkey's pro-Kurdish party announces presidential candidate

ISTANBUL Thu Jun 26, 2014 4:09pm EDT

Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) answers a question during a Reuters interview in Berlin April 15, 2013. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski

Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) answers a question during a Reuters interview in Berlin April 15, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The co-chairman of Turkey's main pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party (HDP) will run in the country's first direct presidential election in August, Turkish media said on Thursday.

The HDP's Selahattin Demirtas announced his candidacy on Turkish news channel Haberturk TV before tweeting: "I would like to (be) perceived as the candidate of all the oppressed and the neglected groups in Turkey".

Kurds account for around a fifth of Turkey's population. The HDP is a sister party of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which dominates much of the mainly Kurdish southeast. The HDP was formed late last year to fight mayoral elections in western Turkey, where Kurds are in a minority.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has not declared his candidacy but is widely expected to run for president.

The opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) last week named prominent Islamic diplomat Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu as their candidate, in a bid to unite opposition against Erdogan.

"Mr. Ihsanoglu paid a visit to HDP today and asked for our support for the second round," Demirtas said on Twitter. "Likewise, we told him that we expect his support for our candidate if we make the second round."

A simple majority is needed on August 10 to avoid a run-off which could see opponents of Erdogan rally behind a single candidate.

Two surveys on Thursday showed Erdogan, a founder of the ruling AK Party which has roots in Islamist politics, gaining 55-56 percent support in the first round.

Both polls put Demirtas on less than 10 percent.

(Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley; writing by Dasha Afanasieva; editing by Andrew Roche)

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