Opposition nationalist İYİP leader seeks to appease Kurdish voters

The leader of Turkey’s centre-right nationalist Good Party (İYİP) has praised and vowed to protect the country’s Kurdish population days after she refused a political alliance with the country’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

The İYİP will not be an enemy of the Kurds, BirGün newspaper cited Meral Akşener as saying while visiting small business owners in capital Ankara.

“Nobody will make us hate Kurds. We will not speak ill of Kurds, and we will not allow anyone else to do so, either,’’ the İYİP leader said, adding that the ethnic minority had stood by the Turkish state at all costs.

Akşener made headlines earlier this month when she said  she would not “sit at any table where the HDP has a seat,” in response to a suggestion by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Gürsel Tekin that the HDP could run a ministry if the opposition were to win in the elections scheduled for next year.

“And the HDP cannot sit at any table where we have a seat,” the leader of the nationalist İYİP said. 

The country’s second largest opposition party, the HDP has been excluded from the opposition alliance of six parties, which are aiming to counter the years-long dominance of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), headed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

 Political involvement with a Kurdish affiliated political party remains controversial in Turkey, where the HDP is facing closure over alleged ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an armed group that has been at war for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey for 40 years.  But Kurds, which forms between 15-20 percent of the country’s population, will play a pivotal role in the polls.

“Surely those who stand with the PKK are traitors,” Akşener said on Tuesday, in remarks differentiating between the armed group and the Kurdish population . “The PKK is an armed separatist terrorist organization, this is something (all together) different.

Akşener’s remarks arrive as Turkey counts down to the next parliamentary and presidential elections slated for June 2023.

İYİP began as a breakaway faction of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the junior coalition partner of the ruling AKP led by  Erdoğan. The party has partnered together with the main opposition People's Republican Party (CHP) as a member of the Nation Alliance bloc that aims to bring Erdoğan's two-decade long rule to an end.

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