Jun 07 2019

Turkey’s Erdoğan limited in options to appeal Kurdish voters - Kurdish lobbyist

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is limited in efforts to appeal Kurdish voters for Istanbul rerun on June 23, due to its alliance with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), according to the director of Washington-based Kurdish lobbying organisation, Kurdistan 24 reported.

The Turkish government last month lifted visiting restrictions on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)’s jailed leader Abdullah Öcalan.

The move prompted speculations that Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) are trying to attract Kurdish voters, who are likely to play a vital role in Istanbul rerun on June 23, after the country’s election council annulled mayoral elections in Turkey’s financial powerhouse held on March 31.

Kurds, particularly those affiliated to the predominantly Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), supported in March 31 elections the opposition candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu, who win the vote by a narrow margin, which meant a major blow for the AKP and Erdoğan.

“Erdogan is limited in any effort to court the Kurdish vote,” Kurdistan 24 quoted Kani Xulam, Director of American Kurdish Information Network, as saying. According to Xulam, even if Erdoğan wants to reach out to Kurdish voters, his options are limited “because of his alliance with the far right”.

“The opposition can only win with Kurdish votes in Istanbul,” said Aykan Erdemir, a former Turkish parliamentarian and now a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Turkey’s Kurds will become a key kingmaker in Turkish politics,” he said, adding that this may indicate a significant change in Turkish politics. 

Turkish Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül said last month that allowing Öcalan to meet his lawyers after eight years had nothing to do with Istanbul elections. 

Meanwhile, after he was twice visited by his lawyers in May, Öcalan on Wednesday met his brother Mehmet Öcalan for the Muslim holiday of Eid. 

Mehmet Öcalan told pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency that his brother had not mentioned the Istanbul rerun during the meeting. 

The PKK leader instead talked about the ongoing war in Syria and the Kurdish issue in Turkey, according to his brother. 

“He said that we had been going through a period of total deadlock, underlining that no results would be achieved by policies of annihilation and war,” Mehmet Öcalan said. “He stated that both the [Turkish] state and the PKK should develop new methods.”