AKP official blames Istanbul loss on party’s alienation of Kurdish voters

The vice chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Administrative Committee blamed the party’s Istanbul defeat in the March elections on the administration’s alienating discourse against Kurdish voters Cumhuriyet newspaper reported.

“If the words ‘go to Kurdistan’ had not been uttered, then Kurds would have voted for Binali Yıldırım… But it was such harshness that prevented this,’’ Azmi Ekinci said, adding that Ankara’s references to survival of the nation’’ in the run up to the polls were perceived as a threat by Kurds, who make up an estimated 2-4 million of Istanbul’s 16 million population.

“If you love it so much, then get out of Turkey. Go to Northern Iraq. Kurdistan is there,’’ the Turkish president told pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party’s (HDP) lawmakers during a campaign speech ahead of the polls.

The main opposition party’s candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu won by a small margin over AKP’s Binali Yıldırım in the Istanbul mayoral race on March 31, a first opposition victory in the city of 16 million which has been ruled by the Islamist AKP and its predecessor for 25 years. The AKP has since successfully appealed the mayoral vote and a redo is scheduled for June 23.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in the Istanbul mayoral race informally accepted the support of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party’s (HDP), which the ruling party accuses of links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group at war in Turkey for over 30 years.

The Turkish president on a number of occasions accused the opposition alliance of receiving support from terrorist groups, namely the HDP, ahead of the local polls.

“In truth, the Kurds don’t want the CHP because they are not compatible with the party. The way to win Kurdish voters is to express them your desire for their support and engage in dialogue with them," Ekinci said.