Erdoğan’s defeat in Istanbul was the revenge of the Kurds - analysis

Kurds took revenge on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with votes that played a pivotal role in the opposition’s victory in Istanbul mayoral race on March 31, columnist Conn Hallinan said in Foreign Policy in Focus on Thursday.

The predominantly Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) did not field a candidate in Istanbul and its jailed former leader Selahattin Demirtaş called on supporters to vote for opposition candidates to weaken Erdoğan’s rule. 

This was the revenge of the Kurds according to Hallinan, as Erdoğan ended peace talks over the three-decade long Kurdish conflict, launched military operations in urban areas in southeast Turkey, sacked elected HDP mayors, and jailed 16 HDP lawmakers along with other members of the party, after the HDP made a major electoral breakthrough in 2015.

Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) reaped the hurricane in the March election, as the HDP’s support tipped the balance in favour of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate in Istanbul, which contributes more than 30 percent of Turkey’s GNP, Hallinan said. 

While it is uncertain how Erdoğan will handle several brewing domestic and foreign crises, the elections should be a wake up call for the opposition, Hallinan said. The CHP has so far remained silent on Erdoğan’s policies against the Kurds, but the March 31 elections showed Erdoğan could be challenged only by a united front that can only be sustained if the opposition develops policies to respond to the demands of Kurds in Turkey, he said.