President and Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has urged his party’s local officials to ensure that the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) remains under the election threshold so that the AKP can achieve a bigger success in the upcoming general election.
Turkey will hold snap presidential and general elections on June 24. Erdoğan is the AKP’s presidential candidate.
Erdoğan made the controversial remarks during a meeting at the AKP İstanbul provincial branch on Saturday where he met with AKP neighborhood officials.
In his speech, Erdoğan says: “Friends, our party organization should work differently when it comes to the HDP. I won’t talk about this outside. I am speaking to you here — why? Because [the HDP] remaining under the threshold means our situation [in the elections] will be better.”
Turkey has a 10 percent election threshold, which is considered to be too high by the opposition parties. If a party fails to get 10 percent of the national vote in the general election, they lose the opportunity to be represented in Parliament.
The HDP managed to surpass the election threshold in the June 2015 general election as well as the snap polls held in the November of the same year. If the HDP cannot make it to Parliament in these elections, the AKP, which hopes to emerge as the first party in the elections, will have more seats in Parliament.
Erdoğan also tells the AKP neighborhood officials that they need to work on an individual level in their neighborhoods and to maintain a tight grip over the voters in each area.
“You will get the electoral lists and see who is who. If you do this, I believe it will bring about a very different outcome for us. We are saying maintain a tight grip on them; you will do this,” says Erdoğan, without further elaborating.
After the release of the video, the HDP issued a statement from its Twitter account on Wednesday evening in which it accused Erdoğan of inciting people to commit a crime.
“He [Erdoğan] is planning to steal our votes through deception and pressure in order to cause the HDP to remain under the threshold because he knows that if the HDP cannot make it to Parliament, he will win more than 400 seats. Just to prevent this from happening, give one vote to the HDP, one vote to [Selahattin] Demirtaş on June 24,” said the party’s statement.
Demirtaş, the HDP’s presidential candidate, has been in pre-trial detention since November 2016.
Erdoğan frequently attacks Demirtaş at his election rallies.
In a campaign speech on Monday, he said Demirtaş deserves capital punishment for his role in the deaths of 53 people at a 2014 protest in Turkey’s Southeast while calling him a “top terrorist.”
In reaction to efforts by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants to besiege Kobani, a Kurdish town in Syria, demonstrations began in Turkey’s Southeast after Demirtaş called for street protests in an attempt to support Syrian Kurdish fighters in Kobani while accusing Ankara of not giving enough help to Kobani and of supporting ISIL. The protests later morphed into fierce clashes between pro and anti-Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) groups in which 53 people were killed.
Since then, Erdoğan and his AKP government have held Demirtaş responsible for the deaths of these people.