One of the key battleground locations in the upcoming municipal elections is the southeastern city of Diyarbakır, a traditional stronghold of the Democratic Society Party (DTP), whose share of the vote in the region is closely followed by the ruling AK Party. The rally, analysts say, will be a decisive factor in the outcome of this year's elections, as Erdoğan's visit this year is loaded with meaningful promises. One reason why the prime minister, whose last visit to the city was on Oct. 20, is well prepared this year is because the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has instigated demonstrations in protest of his visit. Violent clashes between the police and PKK supporters had taken place during his last visit. The terrorist group had forced storeowners to shut down their stores for the day. Erdoğan's focus this time will be not on ethnic identities, but on serving the people.
In his last visit, Erdoğan had remarked on the piles of garbage scattered along the city's roads asking, "Does Diyarbakır have no garbage trucks?" in criticism of the way the city's DTP Mayor Osman Baydemir was handling the city's affairs.
In the continuation of that visit in other cities of the Kurdish-dominated Southeast, such as Tunceli, Van and Hakkari, Erdoğan inadvertently attracted the negative reaction of the area's residents when a statement he made emphasizing the unity of the nation was largely interpreted as a nationalist remark. The AK Party's former deputy chairman, Denger Mir Mehmet Fırat, who is of Kurdish origin, resigned shortly after the controversial remarks.
The prime minister will be trying to make up for his remarks on Oct. 20, emphasizing that the municipal elections are about competing to deliver the best municipal services to residents. His campaign will focus on explaining the approach of his party to local governments and its differences from the DTP. He will also emphasize that ethnic-based political arguments have never done any good to the region and have not contributed to the region's development. Erdoğan will open 39 new facilities in the city to prove his point that his party's promises are not empty. He will emphasize in his speeches that leaders of other parties visiting the region have always made unfulfilled promises, and he will also explain to locals that his party is for expanding fundamental rights and freedoms and establishing a more profound democracy. He will also speak about TRT 6, the Kurdish-language state television channel, which started broadcasting early in January as an initiative of his government. He will also recall in his speeches that the DTP vehemently criticized this step, which has been considered by the majority of people as an important gain in the name of rights and freedoms.
Ministers and AK Party deputies from the region will accompany Erdoğan during this visit, which will be key to taking over some of the DTP strongholds in the Southeast, particularly Diyarbakır. He will also announce the launch of two new Kurdish language departments, one in Artuklu University and another in Dicle University.
He will also criticize opposition parties for not rallying in the region. One of the key themes in his speeches in Diyarbakır will be criticizing the DTP for exploiting ethnic sensitivities and not delivering any real services to their electorate after having won their votes.
What's in the bag?
Erdoğan will open 39 new facilities in a single ceremony after today's rally in Diyarbakır, during which he will explain to the city's residents that he is there with solid projects and not empty promises. In addition to the single opening ceremony, he will open Dicle University's cardiology department. The openings are part of Erdoğan's economic boost package, which includes the creation of 5,000 new jobs. These facilities include a service building for the Bismil Agriculture Directorate, a project establishing 39 agricultural development cooperatives, 385 agricultural irrigation projects, 14 agricultural enterprises, nine machinery supply projects, a soil analysis laboratory, canalization projects in five villages, 31 primary schools, eight high schools, six kindergartens, four sports complexes, four health centers, a state hospital and a dental center, a policlinic, an ambulance helicopter, an Olympic-size swimming pool, a race track, the restoration project of a church, seven two-lane roads, four bridges, the Bismil Court House, 570 hectares of protected urban forestland and five drinking water projects.
Current state of affairs in Diyarbakır
The AK Party and the DTP are head-to-head in the region, while support for other parties is almost non-existent in the region. The AK Party's candidate for Diyarbakır mayor is Kutbettin Arzu, while Osman Baydemir, the current mayor, will be running for re-election as the DTP's candidate.
The DTP sees Diyarbakır as a bastion, and it has few worries that it might lose. It strongly believes that the new facilities the prime minister will open will not change the voters' minds. Baydemir's election campaign uses the slogan "Notes from the Diyarbakır bastion" along with a series of posters and banners that try to explain the services the DTP has delivered to the city. The campaign focuses on the services that have been delivered until now, instead of future investments.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli and Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal have not included Diyarbakır rallies in their election campaigns this year. The MHP's candidate is Bayram Durmuş, while the Felicity Party's (SP) candidate is Yaşar Karataş.