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Erdogan seeks to salvage Kurdish support as poll numbers sag

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Turkey’s largest Kurdish-majority city is seen as a sign of his recognition of how crucial the Kurdish vote will be in his bid for reelection in the next polls.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks on stage during a local election rally of his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in Diyarbakir, eastern Turkey, on March 9, 2019.
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DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent visit to Diyarbakir, the central city of Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast, is largely seen as an effort to salvage his Kurdish vote ahead of potential early elections, as pollsters report a downtick in his popular support, both among Kurds and across the country.

Erdogan has enjoyed solid popularity among conservative Kurds, drawing mostly on his Islamic credentials, and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been the only real rival in the southeast of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the standard bearer of the Kurdish movement in Turkey. He had won much credit also for settlement talks with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the armed outfit that has fought Ankara since 1984 and is designated as a terrorist group. But since the talks collapsed in 2015, he has shifted to a hard-line nationalist agenda, marked by a ferocious crackdown on the PKK and the HDP, and aligned with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to bolster his electoral fortunes. 

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