Those trying to take advantage of Kurdish citizens to benefit in the local polls will not be allowed to do so, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said yesterday at a rally in eastern Turkey's Ağrı. "Those who do 'Kurdism' are enemies of this country. They cannot divide this country. They cannot divide the state," said Erdoğan, referring to the veiled alliance of the pro-PKK Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) with other opposition parties. Ağrı is one of the Kurdish-majority provinces, where the election race is expected to be between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the HDP. Criticizing the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) over siding with the HDP, Erdoğan showed a video of HDP Co-chair Sezai Temelli, who said that the Nation Alliance's success in the upcoming local elections is dependent on the support of HDP in metropolitan areas.
The recent statements made by Temelli had targeted both the main opposition CHP and the Good Party (İP) over their joint candidate in Ankara and Istanbul - Mansur Yavaş and Ekrem İmamoğlu, respectively. Temelli explicitly claimed that both candidates' performances heavily depend on the HDP's support and "they cannot ignore this fact."
The CHP has refrained from officially including the HDP, which has been condemned for its close ties with the PKK, in its electoral alliance with İP amid fears of a possible backlash from its secular-nationalist voter base.
The HDP is known for its support for autonomy in regions where large Kurdish populations live. Also, some of its members have been charged or accused of having links to the PKK terrorist organization that has been fighting the Turkish state for more than 30 years and has killed more than 40,000 people.
In the 2014 local elections, the Peace and Democratic Party (BDP), which preceded the HDP, had increased the number of cities where it won the elections from eight to 11, taking the provinces of Mardin, Bitlis and Ağrı from the AK Party. While the BDP took 51 percent of the popular vote, the AK Party took 45.4 percent of the votes. Sırrı Sakık, the elected former mayor of Ağrı, was dismissed from his role in 2017 due to cooperation with the PKK. Musa Işın was appointed as a trustee to the municipality. The state had appointed trustees to the HDP-linked municipalities due to their cooperation with the PKK. Since 2016, Turkey has removed the elected administrations of 93 municipalities in the region for their links to the PKK terrorist group. The new administrations, named trustees, have been welcomed by locals as they brought new services and cut the money flow to the group. The trustees, mostly bureaucrats who serve as district governors in the region, are lauded by the public for the numerous positive changes they have brought to towns and cities. Long-neglected infrastructure was completely renewed, new roads and social facilities were built while green spaces were increased. Municipalities' debts to local businesses were paid while schools, public buildings and other structures damaged in terror attacks underwent renovation.
Vahdettin İnce, an author and Kurdish intellectual, said that the trustees have worked hard to provide high-quality municipal services to people in Ağrı and the region. Thanks to the trustees' efforts, people in the region have access to "real" municipal services.
"Before the trustees, the HDP took advantage of tribal cultures in the Kurdish population to attract voters and they did not deliver any municipal services," said İnce, adding that people in the region will be able to compare the services of political parties and choose the party that delivers the best results following the end of the PKK's pressure. Mentioning the investments in Ağrı, Erdoğan announced that the American sportswear giant Nike is set to move its only production center in the Middle East and Europe to Ağrı as part of the Tekstilkent project in the province. The textile products processed at the production center, where around 5,000 people will work in two years, will also be exported via Ağrı.