Kurdistan Kurds split in Turkey referendum over empowering Erdogan

Kurds split in Turkey referendum over empowering Erdogan
A soldier escorts an election official carrying a bag full of ballots following a voting procedure for a referendum in the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, Turkey, April 16, 2017. (Photo: Reuters)

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – Sunday’s referendum on whether to give Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping powers divided millions of voters in predominantly Kurdish provinces.

In Sirnak, Batman, Siirt, Hakkari, Diyarbakir, Mardin, Igdir, Dersim, Agri, Van, and Ardahan where the opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP) traditionally has a strong voter base, clear majorities, ranging from 52 to 80 percent, voted “no.”

Among the ten regions accounting for most of the “no” ballots in Turkey, five were Kurdish.

Dersim, officially named Tunceli in Turkish, registered the strongest dissent in Turkey, with the “no” vote standing at 80 percent, according to data provided by the state-funded, pro-government Anadolu Agency.

In Diyarbakir, often seen as the de facto capital of Turkey’s Kurdistan and bastion of the Kurdish movement, 67 percent of voters rejected the constitutional reform package meant to empower Erdogan.

The HDP, whose co-leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag remained in prison during the campaigning process ahead of the referendum, lead the charge for a “no” vote.

However, the number of Erdogan supporters in Kurdish cities, except Dersim, significantly rose compared to the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) performance in the two general elections in 2015.

The spread in certain areas grew up to 15 additional percentage points.

In Sanliurfa, Adiyaman, Elazig, Malatya, Bingol, and Bitlis—where Kurds make up the majority—and Gaziantep, Kahramanmaras, Erzincan, and Erzurum, where they live alongside Turks, “yes” votes were among the highest in Turkey, with percentages ranging from 59 to 74.

Kars and Mush were exceptions, as the “yes” votes barely defeated the “no’s.”

The electoral map released following the confirmation of the referendum’s results resembled that of previous general and local elections.

Higher support was registered for pro-Kurdish parties along the borders with Kurdish regions in Syria, Iraq, and Iran.

Provinces, where the "yes" votes cemented Erdogan's now disputed victory, are westward, where geographic Kurdistan converges with Turkish-populated areas.

The support the “no” campaign garnered in Kurdistan of Turkey overall accounted for fewer votes than the HDP received in the 2015 elections.

In Istanbul, Turkey’s largest and most cosmopolitan city where an undefined number of millions of Kurds live, the “no” vote won by a small margin (51.3 percent).

There was also a significantly smaller turnout at polling stations in Kurdish provinces (between 70 to 83 percent) compared to the total voter turnout in Turkey (85 percent).


Editing by Gabrielle Renaud and Karzan Sulaivany