In a resounding display of defiance against the hardline approach of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) towards pro-Kurdish circles, Kurdish-majority cities in southeastern Turkey once again cast their ballots in favour of opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in Sunday’s presidential runoff elections. This marked a continuation of their support for Kılıçdaroğlu, as seen in the first round.
The decisive Kurdish reaction to the government’s crackdown on pro-Kurdish groups is evident in the remarkable share of the vote that Kılıçdaroğlu received in the region. Kurdish-majority Diyarbakır (Amed) displayed overwhelming support for the opposition leader, at 71.65 percent. Similarly, Şırnak (Şirnex) and Hakkari (Colemêrg) followed suit, with Kılıçdaroğlu garnering 76.3 percent and 72.11 percent respectively.
Batman (Êlîh), Mardin (Mêrdîn), Ağrı (Agiri), and Van (Wan) also demonstrated their dissatisfaction with the ruling AKP by delivering substantial victories to Kılıçdaroğlu, with 68.06 percent, 65.24 percent, 65.34 percent, and 61.5 percent of the vote respectively. Furthermore, in his home province of Tunceli (Dersim), predominantly populated by Alevi citizens, Kılıçdaroğlu garnered an impressive 82 percent.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) participated in the electoral process under the banner of the Green Left Party due to an ongoing court case demanding its closure. Both the Green Left and the HDP threw their weight behind Kılıçdaroğlu in the presidential elections. However, in the lead-up to the elections, a series of pre-election crackdowns unfolded, leading to the arrest of hundreds of pro-Kurdish lawyers, journalists and rights activists, as well as Green Left and HDP members, in numerous cities in Turkey.
The extraordinary support for Kılıçdaroğlu in Kurdish-majority areas underscores the deep frustration and discontent with the AKP government’s policies towards the Kurdish population. The crackdown on pro-Kurdish circles, which has resulted in the erosion of civil liberties and the stifling of Kurdish political representation, has galvanised Kurdish voters to rally behind Kılıçdaroğlu as a symbol of hope for change.