Pro-Kurdish party campaigns for Turkish opposition in Istanbul mayor vote

Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party has started campaigning in Istanbul to persuade its supporters to vote for the main opposition secular candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu in the rerun of polls to elect a mayor of Istanbul on June 23, the co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said.

The support of Kurdish voters played a pivotal role in İmamoğlu being declared winner of the Istanbul mayoral race on March 31. But President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) objected to the result citing what it said were irregularities and the election council ordered the ballot to be held again.

Four pollsters have put Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate İmamoğlu ahead in the rerun.

The CHP has formed an alliance with other opposition parties in an effort to end the 25-year control of Istanbul municipality by Islamist parties. The HDP is supporting the alliance, but is not part of it.

“We have an open and clear stance on this issue. We made our design to make the AKP lose and to ensure a win for democratic powers. Therefore the HDP’s attitude about Istanbul is clear,” the party’s co-chair Pervin Buldan said in an interview with the Duvar news website. 

The Turkish government in early May lifted restrictions on Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who was not allowed to see his lawyers for eight years. Since then Öcalan has met his lawyers twice, prompting speculation that the AKP and Öcalan had agreed to relaunch peace talks in exchange for Kurdish support for the ruling party in the Istanbul election rerun. 

“The lawyer visits started after the ban was lifted. I say in quotation marks, the AKP ‘might have thought that way’ in relation to the Istanbul elections, but there is no such possibility for us,” Buldan said, adding that both her party and Öcalan were of the same opinion about the Istanbul mayoral election. 

Buldan said that the HDP’s priority in its election campaign would be to reach out to some 200,000 Kurdish voters who had not voted on March 31. “We have voters who do not want to vote for the CHP, who really cannot digest this idea, we cannot hide it,” Buldan said.

Turkey’s secularist CHP has for two decades opposed any talks with the PKK. Buldan said the two parties were in contact over the Istanbul polls. 

Buldan said she believed İmamoğlu would receive 250,000 more votes than AKP candidate Binali Yıldırım on June 23. İmamoğlu was declared winner of the March 31 vote with a majority of 13,000 after a series of recounts.