Turkey’s top court froze about $29 million of government aid for a leading pro-Kurdish party that aims to challenge President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in elections later this year.

The Constitutional Court passed the ruling Thursday against the People’s Democratic Party, or HDP, which is involved in a long-running trial on separatism charges.

Leading political parties in Turkey get regular government aid. The amount is usually tripled in election years as parties campaign for votes, so Thursday’s ruling is a blow for an already disorganized opposition ahead of the vote expected this summer.

The court is also considering a ban on the party, currently the third-biggest in parliament. The ruling comes weeks after Turkey convicted Istanbul’s high-profile mayor from the main opposition party CHP. He was found guilty of insulting election officials in a ruling that jeopardized a potential election bid against Erdogan.

The HDP says it is struggling to win cultural and legal recognition of the country’s Kurdish minority. It denies it’s influenced by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and European Union, as well as Turkey.

Turkish prosecutors want to disband the HDP and bar more than 450 of its members from politics due to the alleged ties to autonomy-seeking Kurdish militants.

If it is outlawed, Kurdish politicians might try to form a new bloc or contest elections as independents, but their political clout would be reduced. A trial however could drag on for months or even years.

The HDP first became a significant political opponent in 2015, when the party won 80 parliament seats in a result that temporarily prevented Erdogan’s AK Party from securing a majority. Its leaders were later jailed and Kurdish mayors were removed from office. It won nearly 12% of votes in the last parliamentary election in 2018 and a year later helped Turkey’s main opposition party win mayoral races in the capital, Ankara, and commercial hub Istanbul.


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