Demirtaş urges Kurdish voters to avoid falling victim to ‘psychological campaign’ ahead of revote

The jailed former co-chair of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) on Saturday called on Kurdish voters preparing to cast their ballots in Sunday’s Istanbul mayoral redo to avoid falling for to what he called a “psychological campaign.’’

Selahattin Demirtaş took to Twitter following state-run Anadolu News Agency’s publication on Thursday of a controversial letter penned by jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, urging Kurdish voters to remain neutral in Sunday’s vote, a stance contrasting the open support of the opposition candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu by the pro-Kurdish HDP.  

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Öcalan’s letter represented a "power struggle" between the HDP and PKK.

“Let no one have any doubt that I will be on the side of Mr. Öcalan for any kind of initiative for democracy and peace,’’ Demirtaş wrote on Twitter, however, added, “I call on everyone and all sides to act more cautiously and not be a part of the psychological campaign.”

Demirtaş noted that the battle for power was “foreign’’ concept for the HDP and the party’s leadership would not be part of such a “polemic and game.’’

Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) are trying to attract Kurdish voters, who are likely to play a vital role in Istanbul rerun on Sunday, after the country’s election council annulled mayoral elections in Turkey’s financial powerhouse held on March 31.

Öcalan’s letter follows a move by the Turkish government last month to lift the visiting restrictions on the outlawed PKK’s leader Öcalan, who has been behind bars at İmralı prison since his capture in 1999. The PKK is armed group that has been at war for autonomy in Turkey for over 30 years.

Erdoğan on Friday met Nechirvan Barzani, the newly-elected president of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, another move to win over Kurdish voters, according to analysts.

Following the 2015 collapse of a peace process between the AKP government and the PKK, Ankara has intensified a crackdown on the HDP, which it accused of harbouring sympathies and acting in the interests of the PKK.