Erdogan Speaks to Kurds in Eastern Turkey: Campaign Trail Update

(Bloomberg) -- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke at a rally in Van on Tuesday, attempting to shore up support in the heavily Kurdish east of the country with just five days to go before elections.

“What Kurd has ever been discriminated against just for being Kurdish in this country?" Erdogan asked from the stage. “No one. They’re my brothers."

Kurds and Turkish nationalist voters are likely to be the key determinants of the outcome on June 24 as Erdogan bids to cement his power as president and that of his party in parliament. But it’s a political tightrope because his aggressive courting of the nationalists risks alienating the Kurds, Turkey’s largest ethnic minority.

Polls show the result is too close to call, with Erdogan and his ruling AK Party leading by a narrow margin. The presidential vote will go to a second round on July 8 if Erdogan fails to win 50 percent of the vote on Sunday.

The lira dropped as much as 1.4 percent against the dollar. Turkey’s 10-year bond yields rose to a record, climbing above 17 percent as risk aversion spreading across global markets dealt another blow.

The U.S. Senate voted to freeze arms sales to fellow NATO member Turkey late on Monday, in a hint at possible sanctions to come for Turkey’s purchase of Russian defense equipment, the arrests of American citizens and its sanctions-busting business with Iran.

Turkish airwaves are now filled with political advertising, with Erdogan’s pitch focused on trumpeting his infrastructure and building projects, physical symbols of economic development during his 15 years in power.

Counter Message

The opposition’s ads are focusing largely on social reconciliation, justice and democracy, all of which deteriorated during that period even as the economy steadily expanded.

The main opposition party’s candidate for president, Muharrem Ince, also spoke in eastern Turkey. He addressed citizens in Hatay, a province near the Syrian border.

A former physics teacher, Ince has surprised many with his ability to draw crowds and lead the national debate. He promised that his first act as president would be to lift a state of emergency that’s been in place since the summer of 2016, when a coup attempt against Erdogan by a faction of the military failed.

Ince also announced a 100-day plan that included vows to restore central bank independence, continue the fight against terrorist organizations, remove restrictions on the press, and guarantee judicial independence.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.