Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan campaigning in Diyarbakir in advance of an April 16 referendum on constitutional amendments. Photo: AA
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised the inauguration of 85 projects worth $80 million when addressing supporters in Diyarbakir, southeastern Turkey during campaigning for the April 16 referendum on amendments to the country’s constitution.
The most important projects he promised are the extension of natural gas to the city and the sewage system.
“We will extend the natural gas to these areas, but the PKK terrorist organization will come and explode it. They are traitors. They do not love my Kurdish brothers. They could never represent my Kurdish brothers. Everything they do is a lie,” Erdogan said, referring to fighters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
He assured his supporters that as long as he rules the country as president, nothing “could do them harm.”
He also said they will continue to boost the region’s economic infrastructure as his party is the one for solving problems. “Whenever you are in trouble, we will be there for you.”
“Diyarbakir is our heart and we love it,” he told his supporters at a rally. “As our history was in partnership, so is the future. God willing, a great future is ahead.”
He also said no party or force could “dissociate this geography and nation from us.”
Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) supports the constitutional amendments that will see the country’s parliamentary system of government replaced with a powerful presidency. The pro-Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party (HDP), that has its base in the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, has opposed the changes.
Around 18 percent of registered voters said in February that they had not decided how to vote. Large numbers of undecided votes live in Kurdish provinces where tensions are still running high between the army and Kurdish guerrillas.
Military operations against the PKK are still ongoing in southeastern Turkey, alienating many voters as thousands of government opponents, including elected officials, are in prison and military curfews are in place in many areas. In other areas, neighbourhoods have been partially or completely destroyed, resulting in mass migration of people out of the region.
According to HDP, at the start of this year, 8,711 members and supporters of their party have been detained and 2,705 have been arrested since July 2015, when the peace process between Ankara and the PKK fell apart and the conflict renewed.
These issues are likely to have an impact when voters go to the polls.
The proposed constitutional changes would effectively abolish the position of prime minister, give the president the power to appoint and remove ministers, and hold the leadership of a political party while in office. It would also allow Erdogan to possibly stay in power until 2029.