People who know Mr. Arzu have positive impressions of him. The most common impressions about him are of a humble people's man, a convincing man. The people of Diyarbakır would easily accept him as a mayor.
Given that Arzu is not one of the public figures of the AK Party who is known for his political stances, his nomination reflects the AK Party's election strategy for the Diyarbakır Municipality. It appears that the AK Party will run an "apolitical" election campaign against the Kurdish nationalist Democratic Society Party (DTP).
Several reasons may have forced the AK Party to choose an apolitical campaign in Diyarbakır. First, the boundaries of politics in Diyarbakır are not necessarily related to the immediate issues that need to be addressed, but simply the Kurdish question, an issue that is larger than Diyarbakır itself. As the party that has run the country for the last six years, despite launching some reforms to address the Kurdish question, including a new state-run Kurdish-language TV station, the AK Party has not managed to fully satisfy the Kurds in the region. On the contrary, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's recent exclusionist rhetoric deeply disappointed a majority of Kurds in the region. Thus, it could be disastrous for the AK Party to run a political campaign in Diyarbakır because the boundaries of a political campaign would force AK Party candidates to make Kurdish nationalist remarks during the election campaign period, which could put the AK Party in a difficult position in the eyes of the establishment in Ankara and in the eyes of their Turkish constituencies.
In order to avoid such a dilemma, the AK Party has chosen to run an apolitical election campaign in the region. The party will offer what the city needs and stress how the current DTP mayor has failed to address the city's fundamental problems.
In addition, AK Party leaders, including Erdoğan, are experienced in running apolitical election campaigns to win cities that need basic infrastructure problems addressed. In fact, Erdoğan's very first election campaign to win the İstanbul Municipality was an apolitical campaign that highlighted the city's needs at the time. Erdoğan wants to implement a similar strategy for Diyarbakır.
Second, the AK Party has powerful religious networks in the region that make it advantageous to run an "informal political campaign" in the city. The well-established religious networks in the region -- Sufi networks -- mobilized their resources during the last election in July 2007 to support the AK Party against the military's e-memorandum. With this boost, the AK Party won decisively in the region. This time the AK Party wants the same strategy to bring it decisive victory once again; however, like ordinary Kurds, religious Kurds in the region have been disappointed by the AK Party, as well. It seems that Erdoğan is very aware of this fact. To win votes from religious networks in the Kurdish region and in Turkish cities, Erdoğan has recently sharpened his rhetoric to forcefully defend the Ergenekon investigation. Defending the Ergenekon investigation against all odds provides Erdoğan a new opportunity to present himself once again as a leader who has not forgotten his camp. In other words, by presenting himself as a leader who is determined to support the Ergenekon prosecutors, Erdoğan sends a signal to the religious networks to mobilize their constituencies for him once again. We do not know whether the Kurdish religious networks will buy Erdoğan's Ergenekon strategy in Kurdish cities, but what we can say is that the Ergenekon investigation is very important for most Kurds because there are thousands of unsolved murders that took place in the Kurdish region, and most people believe that the Ergenekon investigation will find the perpetrators of these murders.
Third, running an apolitical election campaign in the region will lighten the tone of Kurdish nationalist rhetoric in the region, which makes the Turkish military happy. By choosing an apolitical election campaign in Diyarbakır, Erdoğan shows that he is a statesman who cares about the sensitivity of the Kurdish question. In this way, the AK Party hopes that even if it does not win in Diyarbakır, it will win in Ankara and legitimize itself in the eyes of the military. If a miracle happens and the AK Party wins in Diyarbakır, then it will change the whole meaning of Kurdish politics in the region.
By all accounts, it will be an interesting battle to watch in Diyarbakır.
[*] Dr. Emre Uslu is an analyst working with the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington-based think tank. Önder Aytaç is an associate professor at Gazi University's department of communications and works with the Security Studies Institute in Ankara.