President Erdoğan is Struggling to Get Kurdish Votes Without Losing Nationalists Votes

Hülya Karahan

Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan’s campaign has been directed to the Kurdish minority for less than two weeks before the referendum on the constitution, which will determine whether to extend the powers of the president in Turkey.

This is seen as a tough political balancing act for Erdoğan, but if it succeeds, it can also give him a victory.

Erdoğan rallied last Saturday in Diyarbakir.

In previous conflicts, most of the city’s historic neighborhood was destroyed.

Since the breakdown of the peace process in 2015, Erdoğan has carried out an unprecedented military oppression. Leading names and members of HDP were collectively arrested.

However, Erdoğan’s message to the people of Diyarbakir was a message of peace.

Erdoğan, “PKK factions say peace. Will there be peace with those who are with arms?  We are peacemaker freedom guard.”

During his first years in power, Erdoğan has passed through crucial reforms aimed and initiated a peace process to end decades of conflict. In return, the president has managed to get  half of the Kurdish votes corresponding to about 20 percent of the total voters in the country.

However, Erdoğan increased the stiffness rate against the movements advocating Kurdish rights in order to provide support from nationalists and called this action “fight against terrorism”.

During the referendum campaign, this attitude was further strengthened by the message of ‘one nation, one flag, one state’.

While Erdoğan and the ruling AK Party are believed to continue their pragmatic support among the religious Kurds.

As a sign of the dimension of Erdoğan’s problem, it was seen that the crowd in Diyarbakır was less than the crowds that the president had gathered in Turkey in similar programs.

In contrast, more than 100 thousant people attended Nevruz celebrations organized by HDP last month in Diyarbakir and the celebrations turned into a “no” rally in the referendum.

However, Erdoğan’s speech in Diyarbakir signaled a possible return to the solution process.

Erdoğan said, “We are ready to talk to everyone as long as there are no weapons in their hands”, giving the open door signal to a new solution process in case of winning the referendum.

The referendum lasts less than two weeks, and no one expects a dramatic change in the politics of the Kurdish issue.

HDP’s co-chairman, Selahattin Demirtaş, ended the hunger strike on the  that the demands of the members of the party in prison were fulfilled. The party’s 13 deputies, along with thousands of authorities, are in prison for terrorist accusations and are awaiting for trial.

Erdoğan’s effort to increase Kurdish votes is seen as a sign that there may be a problem in the strategy of obtaining a nationalist.

MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli supports  Erdoğan, but the polls show that the nationalist division.

Observers point out that the polls show that the proportions are too close to each other and that the result of the April 16 referendum could ultimately determine how successful Erdoğan would  gain Kurdish vote without losing nationalists votes.