Turkey’s pro-Kurdish parties maintain backing for run-off challenger to Erdogan despite nationalist turn

Turkey’s pro-Kurdish parties maintain backing for run-off challenger to Erdogan despite nationalist turn
In a last gasp bid to find votes to win the runoff, challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu has made a deal on expelling migrants with far right Victory Party leader Umit Ozdag. / @kilicdarogluk, screengrab
By bne IntelIiNews May 26, 2023

Turkey's pro-Kurdish parties have reaffirmed their support for opposition unity candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu in this weekend's run-off presidential election, one day after conveying their anger at a deal he struck on the expulsion of migrants in order to win the endorsement of a far right party.

Their discomfort at maintaining their backing for Kilicdaroglu was evident in the fact that they did not name him in their May 25 statement on whom they would advise their supporters to vote for in the May 28 showdown. Kurds make up around a fifth of Turkey’s 85mn-strong population and, given the fanning of nationalism seen during the campaigning, will fear a renewed crackdown under the regime, should it emerge unscathed from the election as most analysts expect it to do.

The alternative to Kilicdaroglu in the runoff is Turkey’s leader of two decades Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who officially defeated Kilicdaroglu in the election first round on May 14 by 49.5% to 44.9% and is widely expected to secure re-election in Sunday’s head to head.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and its Green Left (YSP) ally explained on May 25 that they were still seeking a change of government in the runoff and would thus not change their stance on whom to vote for.

HDP co-chair Pervin Buldan told a news conference that party members would vote to end Erdogan's "one-man regime", which she referred to as a “freak regime”, saying: "The freak regime created by Erdogan and his partners is the cause of the societal problems that are being experienced. What will be voted on May 28 is whether this freak regime will continue or not."

Kilicdaroglu on May 24 announced a deal with the anti-immigrant Victory Party (ZP), which secured him their endorsement. The ZP won 2.2% of votes in the parliamentary election that ran in parallel with the presidential poll first-round vote.

To secure the accord, Kilicdaroglu agreed to an article expressing support for the regime policy of replacing mayors with state-appointed trustees where a court ruled that they had terrorism links. Most HDP mayors elected in 2019 have been replaced by such officials.

Buldan was also critical of election campaign rhetoric in which migrants are used for political purposes, saying: "The refugee and migrant problem can only be solved with a strong struggle for peace against policies of war."

The six-party Nation Alliance led by Kilicdaroglu previously said it would end the practice of replacing mayors with government-appointed trustees.

The endorsement of Kilicdaroglu by ZP leader Umit Ozdag goes some way to countering the endorsement Erdogan received on May 22 from Sinan Ogan, the presidential candidate of a ZP-led far right alliance, who came third in the first-round vote with 5.2% support.