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Who will the Kurds vote for in the Turkish elections?

May 31, 2018 at 5:02 pm

Sample ballots are seen ahead of the Turkish presidential and parliamentary elections which will take place on 24 June in Ankara, Turkey [Emin Sansar/Anadolu Agency]

Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections will be held in less than a month. Given the alignment of political parties and the formation of two electoral alliances, many observers and analysts are asking who the Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin will vote for. Even the smallest difference in support for either coalition could change the poll results.

Before seeking an answer to the first question, is it possible to say that a single party or trend represents all of the Kurdish voters? To say that the Kurds will vote for this party or that party presupposes that they are united in their opinions and politics. Reality, however, suggests otherwise.

Kurdish voters, like the Turks, are divided along intellectual and political lines. Some are nationalists or leftists, while others are liberals, democrats or Islamists. Although the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is ranked first in most of the Kurdish-majority provinces in Turkish elections, the percentage of votes given to other parties by Kurdish voters is not low. There are also Kurdish MPs and politicians who are members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and others.

Kurdish nationalists do not vote for the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) while the Turkish nationalists do not vote for the HDP. However, we cannot say that all of the Kurds would not vote for the MHP or say that all of the Turks would not vote for the HDP. There are Kurdish voters who do vote for the HDP and Turkish voters who do vote for the HDP, albeit only a few. The head of the MHP, Devlet Bahceli, criticised “anyone who claims that the Nationalist Movement Party is an enemy of the Kurds” and called them “traitors”.

Turkish elections surprise everyone

Perhaps the most important question is whether or not the Kurdish voters who backed the AK Party in the previous elections will refrain from doing so this time because of its alliance with the MHP. There are indicators that help analysts shed light on the answer to this question. The first is that these Kurdish voters voted “yes” in the popular referendum on the constitutional amendments and supported the transition from the parliamentary system to the presidential system. This is despite the fact that these amendments were drafted and passed in parliament by the AK Party in alliance with the MHP.

The opposition electoral alliance includes the Iyi Party, led by Meral Aksener and founded by MHP dissidents. Aksener once served in the Ministry of the Interior and her time in office was marked by violations against the Kurds. Hence, Kurds are not expected to vote for the coalition that includes Aksener’s party. One supporter of the HDP even wrote an article calling on supporters not to vote for Aksener or the CHP presidential candidate, Muharrem Ince, even if either one needed just a single vote to win.

The HDP is the fruit of an alliance between the radical Turkish left-wing parties and dissident Kurds who support the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). However, there is concern among the Kurdish ranks about extremist left-wing Turks controlling the party. Some believe that the Kurds are being exploited and marginalised in the HDP and that the party has lost its “Kurdish identity”.

Turkey’s Erdogan starts campaigning for snap June elections

Meanwhile, an important development took place on Monday, when the Free Cause (Huda Par) Party announced its support for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the AK Party candidate in the presidential poll. In a press conference in Istanbul, party Secretary-General Mehmet Yavuz said that it had made the decision in order to build the new political system on sound foundations and to support the success of the presidential system that they had voted for in the referendum.

Most of the Free Cause Party’s supporters are religious Kurds, so its support for Erdogan in the presidential election can be described as “new support for him by Kurdish voters.” The Free Cause Party leader, Zekeriya Yapicioglu, is running in the parliamentary elections as an independent candidate in the Diyarbakir province, while his deputy, Ayden Gok, is running as an independent candidate in the Kurdish-majority province of Batman.

Moreover, citizens of Kurdish origin, like citizens of Turkish origin, do not all vote according to their political and ideological orientations. A large percentage will vote on 24 June for the continuation of services, development projects, security and stability away from ethnic and partisan strife.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.