Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has launched a charm offensive aimed at winning the confidence of Kurdish voters after being installed on July 1 as the ruling party’s presidential candidate.
“If God permits, we will never and we can never let the resolution process stall during our presidency,” Erdoğan said, recalling how he has repeatedly declared his devotion to proceed with his government’s peace process, which intends to end the three-decade-long conflict between Turkey’s security forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“Turkey has no choice other than a resolution, peace and fraternity,” he added.
Electioneering will be no easy task for Erdoğan, since he would need at least 50 percent to win outright in the first round of the elections on Aug. 10, which will be Turkey’s first-ever direct presidential election held in two-rounds.
Support from the Kurdish population, who make up around one-fifth of the country’s population, could be decisive for his chances of winning the election and avoiding a potential second round run-off on Aug. 24.
The AKP leader notably referred to the notorious Diyarbakır Prison and the use of the Kurdish language in the public sphere, both of which have an importance among the Kurdish community.
“We have been in politics for the poor in Istanbul’s Sultangazi, Ankara’s Altındağ and Diyarbakır’s Benusen districts, who are on the outskirts of entire Turkey… We have been in politics [to bring the torturers to account for the crimes they committed] in Diyarbakır Prison, for the cruelty in Mamak Prison and the injustice in Metris [Prison],” Erdoğan said. “We have been in politics for those mothers who couldn’t speak any other language than Kurdish, visited their children in the prison, were banned from speaking their mother tongue, had to have conversations with their children by looking into each other’s eyes, for those mothers whose hearts have been torn out,” he added.
The infamous Diyarbakır Prison was a scene of humiliation and torture of Kurdish political prisoners following the Sept. 12, 1980, military coup d’état.
If Erdoğan does dip below the required 50 percent needed to avoid a run-off in the second round, votes from the Kurdish population could still decide his fate.
Analysts say roughly half of all Kurds already vote for the AKP and many more will likely follow suit in the belief that Erdoğan offers the best hope of a lasting peace settlement. His government sent to Parliament last week a bill setting out a legal framework for peace talks.