From the “good news” of dropping utility prices, new local defense industry projects and transporting a new Black Sea gas find, the speech of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday was full of hope for his supporters. But Erdoğan, who addressed his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) group meeting in the capital Ankara, was more concentrated on giving a wake-up call to the electorate still making up their mind on whether to vote for the opposition bloc.
As he played out a video montage of PKK leaders endorsing the opposition bloc, Erdoğan urged the public to think about how the “leader of the main opposition party” described those aligned with terrorist groups and how he cooperated with them.
The president will compete against Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, chair of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), in the May 14 elections. Kılıçdaroğlu, expected to be the strongest contender against Erdoğan, represents a bloc of six parties, mostly with a small vote rate. The bloc, however, counts on the critical vote of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which according to some surveys has at least 10% of the vote. Yet, the HDP is better known for its intricate ties with the terrorist group PKK. The opposition bloc also sought to garner votes from supporters of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), promising to reverse the state of emergency procedures after FETÖ’s 2016 coup attempt and reinstate jobs of those expelled from public sector jobs.
“We reject this policy of protecting the terrorist groups who betrayed our nation and damaged our country, the terrorist groups we held accountable for their treason. We reject the efforts to portray terrorist groups as legitimate actors through political maneuvering. This path they walk, in the company of dark forces which aid PKK and FETÖ, is not a good path,” Erdoğan said, in a thinly veiled barb toward the West, which embraces FETÖ members who fled Türkiye after the 2016 coup attempt and the United States, which cooperates with the PKK’s Syria branch under the guise of the fight against Daesh.
The HDP emerged on the political scene as what it called “representative” of "the disenfranchised" Kurdish community of Türkiye, apparently the same motive as the PKK, which started out as a small movement advocating Kurdish self-rule before taking up arms and launching terrorist attacks. But their path is one and the same for many, including prosecutors who launched a lawsuit to shut down the party they describe as the “recruitment office” for the PKK.
Erdoğan said no political party can claim legitimacy as long as it cannot draw a clear line between itself and terrorist groups. “Under normal circumstances, the CHP should urge this party to draw this line but seeing them going down the same dark path is worrying for our democracy,” Erdoğan warned. He said he was wondering what the CHP offered to the HDP in return for their support in their meeting behind closed doors. Kılıçdaroğlu was broad in his remarks about their discussion with the HDP, save for implying that the Kurdish “question” can only be solved in Parliament. The CHP is known for its staunch opposition to HDP's closure.
“They promise spring but their mindset means that (an opposition victory) will be indeed a springtime for Qandil, Pennsylvania and the capitals of the countries hating Türkiye,” he said, referring to the Iraqi mountain where PKK’s senior cadres hide and in the U.S. state where FETÖ leader Fetullah Gülen resides. He was referring to Kılıçdaroğlu’s TV ads “promising springtime” for Türkiye, based on the lyrics of a song from the 1990s.
The president said that the state did everything to resolve the issue of terrorism, “a 40-year-old wound” for Türkiye, and his government exerted the “strongest struggle” against terrorism. “We buried them in Cudi and Tendürek,” he said, referring to the southeastern Turkish mountains where PKK members hid and were hunted down by security forces.
“(Kılıçdaroğlu) says Demirtaş is not guilty and they would release him (if they win the elections). He is speaking about someone who caused the killings of our children. How he dares to promise to release someone behind the killings, someone who was justly sentenced,” he said. Erdoğan was speaking about the former HDP co-chair accused of inciting the deadly 2014 riots perpetrated by pro-PKK groups.