May 17 2018

Public in southeast uncomfortable with AKP-MHP alliance, says president’s adviser

Turkish citizens in the country’s predominantly Kurdish south eastern regions are uncomfortable with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s alliance with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), İlnur Çevik, the Turkish president’s chief adviser, told HaberTürk TV’s Kübra Par during an interview on Thursday.

The AKP formally entered the “People’s Alliance” with the MHP in Feb. 2018, after MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli’s overtures to the ruling party.

Çevik’s comments refer to an aversion among Kurdish voters to the MHP, which has historically taken a hard line against Kurdish identity politics, unlike the AKP, which relaxed laws prohibiting Kurdish-language media outlets and began a peace process with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in 2012.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan could prepare initiatives dealing with Kurdish issues to assuage their discomfort after presidential and parliamentary elections are held in June, said Çevik.

The PKK had been in armed conflict with Turkish armed forces since launching an insurgency aimed at self-rule in the mid-1980s, and resumed fighting as the peace process broke down in 2015.

The ruling party could resume the peace process, said Çevik, but no move would be forthcoming until after elections. Pressed by Par on whether this was being delayed to avoid creating tension with the MHP, which opposed the last peace process, the president’s adviser insisted it was not.

Çevik’s willingness to compromise apparently did not stretch to Selahattin Demirtaş, the presidential candidate for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) who is running his campaign from a prison cell where he awaits trial on terror charges for alleged links to the PKK, which Turkey classifies as a terrorist organisation.

Despite calls from opposition politicians for Demirtaş to take part in the upcoming elections, Çevik said he should remain behind bars due to the danger that he could cause unrest.