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Pro-Kurd MPs swap walkabouts for rallies in Turkey's stormy election campaign

Fleknaz Ugar meets voters in Diyarbakir.
Fleknaz Ugar meets voters in Diyarbakir. Tony Cross

In Turkey’s general election on Sunday President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) hopes to at last be able to form a government after five months’ stalemate. In June the pro-Kurd People’s Democratic Party (HDP) deprived it of an absolute majority last June and hopes to do better this time. Two HDP candidates were campaigning on the streets of Diyarbakir in the Kurdish-majority south-east on Friday.


Applause and cheers greeted Idris Balukent and Felenaz Ugar on Diyarbakir's Melik Ahmed Street and shopkeepers said they hoped the HDP would increase its vote on Sunday, one even predicting 20 per cent, compared to the 13 per cent the party won in June.

The HDP's last rally in the June campaign, which took place in Diyarbakir, was hit by a bomb that claimed several lives and since then two peace rallies have been hit by Islamic State armed group suicide bombers, killing over 150 people.

So the party has preferred to meet and greet on the street during this campaign, although that has not meant staying away from trouble spots.

Balukent, who was elected an MP in the last election, explained that he and his comrade chose this area because it was the target of a recent police operation against Kurdish youth fighters, angered by the end of peace talks with the PKK guerrilla movement and the military offensive that followed it.

One of the traders, Ramazan, slammed the police’s behaviour.

“Back there, there was shooting," he said, indicating the Sur district behind his shop. "I saw one man just carrying bread but the police shot him. And the police harassed us, too”

The voters’ message is simple, HDP candidate Felenaz Ugar said.

“The important thing is that the people only say some thing to us, ‘We want peace, please do something for peace’.”

Diyarbakir and the Kurdish-majority south-east is the HDP’s stronghold.

Despite the recent security clampdown, another shopkeeper, Felemez, would accept a coalition government led by the AKP, as long as peace talks start again, a stance also taken by the HDP.

“We would like to see HDP do well in the election. If the AKP makes a step towards peace, we want to see that, too.”

Sunday’s vote will be more than a general election, according to Felenaz Ugar.

“I think on November 1 we will see how people vote," she said. "The strategy of HDP is a strategy for peace; the strategy of AKP is a strategy for war. It will be a referendum – for peace or for war.”

A decisive vote, according to everyone. But not necessarily one that will bring an end to Turkey’s problems.

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