Clashes as protesters storm rally by Turkey pro-Kurdish party

map_of_turkeyTurkish police on Thursday fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse hundreds of people protesting against an election rally by the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) in eastern Turkey, days before parliamentary polls, reports said.

The clashes are the latest in a string of incidents in the run-up to Sunday’s vote, where the HDP is trying to clear the 10 percent threshold for entering parliament as a party under proportional representation.

The unrest erupted a day after unidentified gunmen opened fire on a HDP campaign bus in Kurdish-majority eastern Bingol province, killing the driver.

Around 1,000 Turkish nationalists stormed the rally in the main square of the northeastern city of Erzurum, seen as a bastion for Turkish nationalists.

About 2,000 HDP supporters had gathered to hear the party leader Selahattin Demirtas speak at the rally.

Private NTV television showed the demonstrators breaking through the police barricades, before security forces responded with tear gas and water cannon.

The demonstrators, mostly young people, waved Turkish flags and chanted slogans such as “This is Erzurum, there is no way out from here” and “God is greatest.”

A minibus driver suffered severe burns when his vehicle, covered with HDP flags, was set on fire, Dogan news agency said.

It also said a police officer was wounded in the head and some protesters were also injured.

Demirtas went on with the rally and urged caution, saying: “There are only three days left. We will continue to work with patience, without allowing provocations.”

The HDP has long been accused by Turkish nationalists of being linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long armed insurgency in the southeast for Kurdish autonomy.

In May, two blasts targeting HDP’s headquarters in the southern cities of Adana and Mersin injured several people.

Should the HDP pass the 10-percent threshold, it would become more difficult for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reach his goal of changing the constitution to boost presidential powers.

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