Elections test for Erdogan and for Kurdish movement

A victory salute on the BDP campaign bus

KT Report from Dyarbakir:

Today’s municipal electıons are a trial for Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, against a backdrop of months of damaging leaks. corruption allegations and accusations of increased authoritarianism. While his ruling AKP is expected to retain the most votes, Erdogan will be weakened by any significant losses. These polls are also a test of strength for the pro-Kurd Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) which is confident of increasing its vote and aims to use this to advance the faltering peace process.

The BDP thinks it will take control of several Kurd-majority regions from the AKP. These include Bitlis, Mus, Agri, Bingol, Mardin and Kars. The party also wants to win the city of Urfa, near the border with Syria, where Osman Baydemir, the BDPs current Diyarbakir mayor has run a tough contest with the AKP ıncumbent. However, opinion polls have put the AKP ahead in the city and the BDP hopes to at least win many of the Urfa region’s local councils.

Polling stations opened this morning to an unseasonal snow storm in Diyarbakır, the largest city of north Kurdistan, but the results are not in doubt. In the last municipal elections in 2009 the BDP won 65% of the vote and it hopes to boost this today to 70%. Gültan Kışanak and Firat Anli are standıng as the BDP’s co-candıdates for city mayor. Gültan Kışanak will officially take the position on her own although she will share it with Firat Anli, due to the BDP’s unique practice of standing a woman and a man for every elected post. Sharing the mayorship goes against Turkısh law but, as a BDP press officer put it, “we are building a new system inside the old system”.

The newly-elected BDP local authorities will probably face ongoing problems of central government restrictions to their budgets and powers. Last year, for example, a state law deprived them of control of urban planning. This limits the BDP’s ability to deliver much-needed services to local people in deprived areas such as the densely-populated Diyarbakir district of  Bağlar, home to 350,000 people who were originally forced to migrate there from their villages during the 1990s army offensives. However, the problem of local services is unlikely to be resolved without the constitutional settlement that Kurds are demanding from the Turkish state.


In Istanbul, the BDP’s election partner, the recently-formed HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party), faces a squeeze in a highly polarised mayoral contest between the candidates of the AKP and the CHP, Turkey’s main opposition party. The CHP has accused the HDP of making a secret deal with the AKP to split the anti-Erdogan vote, but HDP Istanbul co-chair Shamil Altan dismissed this claim as “ridiculous”, telling KT:

“We went to meet Kılıçdaroğlu, the CHP president, to see if we could coordinate something against the AKP. But we wanted it done openly and in front of the people. They were pressing us not to stand. We said there should an open discussion with an agreed programme and conditions. But he told us, ‘We can do this behind the door but not in the open. If people see us together it will not be helpful to us’. He did not want to be seen cooperating with Kurds because his party is so deeply chauvinistic”.

ANF reports on an election rally in Avcılar district, where the HDP’s Istanbul co-mayoral candidate Sırrı Önder accused the Erdogan administration of plotting to invade Syria as a diversionary tactic. Thıs follows the leaking of a recorded conversation in which head of MIT (Turkish intelligence) Hakan Fidan tells foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu that he can send four agents to fire rockets from Syria into Turkey in order to provoke a war. Erdogan responded to the leak by banning You Tube.  Sırrı Önder told suporters last night: “If the Prime Minister is so eager for war, he should go to the battlefield together with Davutoğlu, his ministers and his sons”.

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