May 10 2018

Main opposition candidate offers his solution for Turkey's "Kurdish Problem"


The main opposition candidate in Turkey’s June 24 presidential election, Muharrem İnce, said on Thursday the country had a Kurdish problem that needed to be recognised.

Speaking at an election rally in the city of Hakkari, in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate said: "We have a problem. Our problem is the Kurdish problem. We should say it with an open heart. The real Kurdish problem is actually a moral problem.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also said he recognised Turkey had a Kurdish problem in a speech in Diyarbakır, biggest city in the southeast, while he was prime minister in 2005.

Erdoğan’s government went on to hold peace talks with the imprisoned leader of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, which led to a ceasefire in the three-decade-old conflict in 2013. The peace process collapsed in 2015, however, and fighting has resumed.

Turkey, the United States and the European Union all list the PKK as a terrorist organisation. Tens of thousands of people, most of them Kurdish, have been killed in the conflict.

The CHP has not held an election rally in Hakkari since 2011, despite presidential polls in 2014 and two parliamentary elections in 2015.

“Politicians come here and say some things that the Kurdish people would enjoy. Then the same politician goes to another place and forgets about what he said here. If I don't say the same things in Rize that I say here, I will quit being a politician," İnce  said, referring to the traditionally nationalist city of Rize on the Black Sea coast.

İnce said there were three main points to his plan to solve the Kurdish problem. "’Peace’, ‘we will grow economically’ and ‘we will share’. We will make peace among ourselves, our economy will grow and Hakkari will take its fair share from this economic growth. While we grow Turkey, we will share the growth fairly but we will face some enemies. Imperialists will emerge. Internal enemies will emerge. We might need to risk our lives," he said.

Alluding to Erdoğan, İnce said the president could not achieve such things as he had been in power for 16 years. 

İnce also made full disclosure of his finances during the Hakkari rally and promised to disclose his finances again in five year’s time, when the next presidential elections are held, but told the crowd that Erdoğan would not do the same thing. 

İnce repeated a call for the release of the former leader of the main pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş, who has been jailed since November 2016, accused of a string of terrorism charges. Demirtaş is the presidential candidate for the HDP, fighting his campaign from behind bars.

"The presidential race should be fair. All candidates must be able to compete,” said İnce. “If tomorrow Erdoğan were victimised, I'd also want him to be in the race under fair conditions."