Will the Kurds decide the election in Turkey?

Status: 04/29/2023 07:53 a.m

20 percent of the people in Turkey have Kurdish roots. The government and opposition are now vying for their votes – because they could decide the elections. Erdogan has been losing support from them for years.

The Kurdish minority in Turkey has been neglected since the founding of the republic. They are often accused of being close to the Kurdish terrorist organization PKK. Kurds are repeatedly attacked when they speak their own language. They are regularly attacked.

The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is fueling this mood, the opposition’s presidential candidate, Kemal Kilicdaroglu from the CHP party, accuses in an Internet video: “Whenever Erdogan realizes that he could lose the elections, he brands the Kurds and treats them them like terrorists. It’s really shameful. Every day millions of Kurds are treated like terrorists – and it doesn’t stop!”

CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu will take on President Erdogan in May. What are his chances?

Erdogan sees himself as a “true friend of the Kurds”

Erdogan, who was approached in this way, holds against it. He grumbles on television: “The CHP really doesn’t care about my Kurdish citizens, my Kurdish brothers and sisters! Those are all lies!” According to Erdogan, he is the true friend of the Kurds.

But trying to reach his core constituency and the Kurdish constituency equally is a difficult political balancing act. Erdogan tries it like this: “We are just as Kurdish as you are Kurdish. We, Turks and Kurds, are the pillars of this country.”

Around 20 percent of the people in Turkey have Kurdish roots. Erdogan has been trying to reconcile with them for years. Many then voted for his party, the AKP. But in 2015 Erdogan ended the process.

In a month Turkey will re-elect parliament and head of state – and President Erdogan is under pressure.

AKP loses support from Kurds

Since then, says Vahap Coskun from Dicle University in Diyarbakir, many Kurds have had a bad time with Erdogan. This became clear at the latest in the 2019 local elections.

“With the support of Kurdish voters, the AKP achieved great success in elections. However, in the local elections of 2019, for example, they no longer had the support of the Kurds. As a result, the AKP lost the big cities,” explains Coskun.

Entrepreneurs are accused of not having built houses according to regulations. Many are completely destroyed.

Especially a lot of irritation since the earthquake

Since the earthquake in early February, even more people in the Kurdish parts of the country have become angry with Erdogan and his AKP. They blame him for not complying with building regulations – and that in the past he has made sure that building fraudsters got away with little impunity.

But even before the earthquake, Erdogan was losing more and more support from the Kurdish minority because of the economic crisis. The left-wing Kurdish politician Menekse Kizildere believes that will be reflected in the election results.

“The poor are getting poorer, and most of the people in the Kurdish areas are poor people and they’ve been hit hard. So I think that’s what decides the change,” she says. In her view, Kurds suffer particularly from Erdogan’s policies.

“probable upheaval”

The mere fact that their language is not recognized creates many problems: “Most Kurds don’t speak Turkish, especially women. If they have to go to the hospital or go to the authorities, they need translators.”

Taken together, all of this makes a political upheaval in Turkey likely, according to analyst Coskun. Erdogan’s party will fall on its feet politically because of its difficult relationship with the Kurds.

“Since 2019, the AKP has taken no steps to improve relations with the Kurds.” And that’s why in this election, for the first time, it’s very likely, says Coskun, that the AKP – the Justice and Development Party – will lose the elections.

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