The governing party’s candidates are close to declaring victory in previously insurmountable HDP strongholds like Sirnak, Bitlis and Agri in southeastern and eastern Turkey.
Turkey’s governing AK Party seems to have significantly increased its voter base in Turkey’s mostly Kurdish-populated southeastern and eastern provinces according to initial results in today’s local elections.
The AK Party has made crucial gains in Sirnak, Agri and Bitlis where the PKK-linked People’s Democratic Party (HDP) has won previous local elections, initial results have shown.
The PKK, recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US, and the EU, has launched a three-decades-long terror campaign against Ankara, leading to tens of thousands of deaths.
Speaking in Istanbul on the evening of the election, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the people in southeastern and eastern Turkey have voted for "security" and against PKK imposed policies.
"I would like to thank all my citizens, especially our Kurdish brothers, for showing sensitivity toward the issue of survival," Erdogan said at the same night in a meeting in Ankara.
Among all the all gains the AK Party has made in the region, Sirnak stands as a special case because it was hardest hit by the PKK’s terror attacks against the Turkish state in 2015.
The HDP used to win Sirnak with ease, and with high margins, in previous years but not this time around. The province, located on the border of both Syria and Iraq has gone to the AK Party by more than 61.79 percent, and the HDP only managed 34.99 percent according to unofficial results. For the HDP that is 20 percent less than what they got in the 2014 local elections.
The unofficial results imply that the city’s residents, who have borne the brunt of the PKK's tactics, have seen improvements in their daily lives after Ankara removed HDP mayors and replaced them with central government-appointed trustees.
The HDP mayors, many of whom have been convicted and jailed for PKK links, have been accused by Ankara not serving to the people. Experts have said that the HDP has been heavily affected by the PKK’s focus on Marxist ideological stances that have led them to ignore people’s needs on the ground.
Backed by Ankara’s huge investment package, the trustees, known as kayyums in Turkish, have resolved numerous practical issues where they have governed dealing effectively with issues like waste management to road construction. Security forces have been successful in providing safety to residents from PKK attacks.
AK Party candidates won in Bitlis and Agri, where the HDP has won in previous elections.
According to the results, where the ballots have fully counted in Agri, show the AK Party gained 10 percent more votes, compared to the 2014 local elections, reaching 55.73 percent while the HDP lost nearly 10 percent, falling to 36.99 percent.
Results show that in Bitlis the AK Party increased its votes to 43.87 percent from the previous 40 percent they managed in 2014, and the HDP declined to 33.1 percent from its previous 43 percent.