Kurdish candidate senses ‘wind of change’ ahead of Turkey’s presidential elections

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 August, 2014, 9:17pm
UPDATED : Monday, 04 August, 2014, 9:18pm

Thousands turned out for a mass rally in support of the Kurdish candidate in Turkey's presidential elections, in a rare show of Kurdish nationalism in the centre of Istanbul on Sunday.

Some 10,000 people rallied by the shores of the Bosphorus in Kadikoy, the main hub of the Asian side of Istanbul, for the address by Kurdish candidate Selahattin Demirtas.

Many waved flags with the face of Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party that for years waged a deadly insurgency against the authorities in southeast Turkey. "For years, they have tried to make enemies out of us so that we don't stand side by side," Demirtas told the cheering crowds. "The presidency will provide an opportunity to create a wind of change so all the oppressed can stand together."

Demirtas is expected to trail in third place in the polls, behind Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the premier's main rival, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu.

But the level of support for Demirtas could be vital in determining if the poll goes to a second round run-off on August 24. The ruling AK party led by Erdogan has moved to grant greater rights to Kurds, Turkey's largest ethnic minority, and is courting their votes. Turkey for years feared the creation of an independent Kurdistan but has recently formed ties with the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

Demirtas, nominated by the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party, wants to attract left-wing secular Turks tired of the traditional opposition to the Islamic-rooted AK party. "If all the poor, gays, women, the workers can hold each other's hands, continue to believe in each other and continue to multiply, no dictator can stand against us," he said.

Agence France-Presse