DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - Thousands of jubilant Kurds flooded the streets of Turkey’s southeastern city of Diyarbakir on Sunday, setting off fireworks and waving flags as the pro-Kurdish opposition looked likely to enter parliament as a party for the first time.
The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said initial results from Sunday’s election showed it would take 80 of 550 seats, a stunning result for a party that pollsters had said would struggle to cross the required 10 percent threshold.
It also marks a major setback for President Tayyip Erdogan, who had hoped for a crushing victory for the AK Party he founded, allowing it to change the constitution and give him broad executive powers.
Erdogan had repeatedly lashed out at the HDP and its charismatic leader Selahattin Demirtas before the elections.
“This result shows that this country has had enough. Enough of Erdogan and his anger,” said Seyran Demir, a 47-year-old housewife who was among the thousands who gathered in the streets around the HDP’s provincial headquarters.
“I am so full of joy that I can’t speak properly.”
The crowds brought traffic to a standstill in parts of the city, the largest in Turkey’s southeast. Elsewhere, young people drove through sidestreets hanging out of car windows and waving HDP flags. Men fired pistols into the air, a traditional sign of celebration.
Just two days earlier, bombs tore through a HDP rally in Diyarbakir, killing two and wounding at least 200.
The HDP had looked to reach beyond Turkey’s roughly 20 percent Kurdish population, attempting to woo center-left and secular voters disillusioned with Erdogan.
“The reason the HDP has won this many votes is because it has not excluded any members of this country, unlike our current rulers,” said 25-year-old Siar Senci. “It has embraced all languages, all ethnicities and members of all faiths and promised them freedom.”
The HDP’s entrance into parliament as a party - previously candidates ran as independents to skirt the 10 percent threshold - could also herald a step forward for the Kurdish peace process.
Ankara launched peace talks with the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) two years ago. The PKK took up arms in 1984 in an insurgency for greater autonomy that has killed 40,000 people.
“We have waited for this day for years. During those dark times, I wondered if I could see Turks and Kurds living in solidarity in my own lifetime. Thank God it happened,” said 63-year-old Ersin Ates.
“Now we don’t want another single bullet to be shot. Our fight will continue in the parliament.”
Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Daren Butler and Mark Trevelyan
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