Ruling party’s Istanbul candidate seeks support in Diyarbakır, southeast Turkey

Binali Yıldırım, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s Istanbul mayoral candidate, on Thursday called on the people of south eastern province of Diyarbakır to support his party in the Istanbul rerun on June 23, Mahmut Bozarslan reported for the Voice of America.

The AKP and its candidate Yıldırım are trying to reach out to conservative Kurdish voters in Istanbul, who, according to some reports, largely abstained from voting in local polls on March 31.

The Kurdish votes played a pivotal role in Istanbul on March 31 polls, as particularly those affiliated with the predominantly Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) preferred to support the opposition’s candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu, ensuring a major blow to the AKP as the party lost the control of Turkey’s financial powerhouse for the first time in 25 years.

Turkey’s Supreme Election Council annulled the Istanbul vote last month upon the appeal of the AKP, which had cited severe electoral irregularities.

Yıldırım on Thursday visited Diyarbakır, the stronghold of the Kurdish political movement, and went to the AKP’s provincial headquarters. The building was covered with banners in Turkish, Kurdish, and Zaza language, primarily spoken is east and southeast Turkey.

“Istanbul is a summary of Turkey. Around 250,000 brothers and sisters from Diyarbakır are living in Istanbul,” Yıldırım told his supporters.

“All elections ended with one exception and that is the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality elections,” he said. “My fellow people of Diyarbakır, are we going to declare a new victory in Istanbul on June 23? I came to Diyarbakır to ask for your support.

Yıldırım made efforts to appeal to Kurdish identity politics in his speech, recalling that Turkey’s first parliament, established during the War of Independence in 1920, had included participants from Kurdistan. The use of the word “Kurdistan” is highly controversial in Turkey, since Turkish nationalists dispute the existence of such a region.

The AKP candidate also said a phrase in Kurdish and pronounced the acronym of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in the way commonly used by Kurds.