May 26 2019
Following years of all out war against the country’s Kurds, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is sticking a wedge between the Kurdish voters and the main opposition party ahead of the Istanbul mayoral revote and allowing for ‘arch-terrorist’ Abdullah Öcalan to meet with his lawyers, wrote Zvi Bar’el, correspondent for Haaretz.
Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group at war in Turkey for over three decades, was not permitted visits from his lawyers on the İmralı prison island, where he has been held since his capture in 1999. His first meeting with his lawyers took place in early May, after the justice ministry lifted the restriction, and another meeting took place on May 22.
The visits arrive on the heels of defeat by Erdoğan’s ruling party in five of Turkey’s most populous provinces, including Istanbul, in the March 31 local elections. The AKP has successfully appealed the Istanbul polls citing fraud and irregularities at the ballots and the city of 16 million is scheduled for a fresh vote next month.
‘’The Istanbul municipal elections are going to be Erdogan’s supreme test against the opposition, and he is investing all his efforts in winning after the March defeat,’’ Bar’el wrote, stressing the advantage, which the total control over the country’s media outlets gives Turkey’s strongman.
Efforts such as a resolution proposed by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) to investigate whether the flow of public money to media outlets is impacting municipal election results is likely to be swept under the carpet, the article said.
However, Erdoğan’s stranglehold on the Turkish media may not be enough to secure the Istanbul elections, according to Bar’el, who noted the ailing economy of the country, which has seen the Turkish lira plummet once again, inflation at close to 20 percent alongside 15 percent unemployment.
For Erdogan, the most important bloc in the Istanbul revote are the Kurdish residents of Istanbul who prefer the opposition candidate and did not even present their own candidate from the pro-Kurdish party in the March polls, the article said.
Erdogan’s unprecedented step of allowing PKK leader Öcalan to meet with his attorney for the first time since 2011 is proof of how far the leader is willing to go for victory in Istanbul, it underlined.
Erdoğan’s government who for years has ‘’banned their political leadership, destroyed their district capital Diyarbakir, branded the entire Kurdish population as supporters of terror and made them into outcasts,’’ is giving a green light for Öcalan to meet with his lawyers and make public statements, Bar’el stressed.
The PKK leader, in a surprising statement, has called on the Syrian Kurds to “take Turkish security needs into consideration.”
On June 23rd, when the Istanbul revote is slated to take place, it will become clear if Erdoğan’s u-turn on the Kurdish issue will pay off, the article concluded.