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Kurdish militant leader tells Kurds to stay neutral in Istanbul election

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ANKARA (Reuters) – The imprisoned leader of the Kurdish militant group PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, called on supporters of a pro-Kurdish political party to remain politically neutral ahead of a local election in Istanbul this weekend, suggesting they should abstain, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Turkey is holding a re-run of the mayoral election this Sunday, initially held on March 31st, following an appeal by President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party, which had long-controlled the city but lost the vote to the main opposition.

The pro-Kurdish party HDP’s former leader Selahattin Demirtas, who is imprisoned on terror charges, had declared support for the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) candidate Ekrem Imamoglu, earlier this week.

“The democratic alliance approach of the HDP should not be a part of current election discussions. The importance of the democratic alliance is that it (…) insists in its neutral position,” Ocalan was quoted as saying by academic Ali Kemal Ozcan, who visited him on Thursday.

Under a so-called “democratic alliance” the HDP has asked its supporters to vote for the main opposition in local elections in towns in the west of Turkey, including in the past in Istanbul and the capital Ankara, where it has not fielded its own candidates.

The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, EU and the United States.

(Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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