A pair of explosions at a Kurdish election rally in southeast Turkey killed two and injured over 100 on Friday ahead of the country's parliamentary election on Sunday. The blasts, which occurred within minutes of each other at the final pre-election rally of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), were caused by a gas cylinder, local media reports said Saturday.
Selahattin Demirtaş, the party's leader, was due to address the rally when the bombs went off. Metal fragments, ball bearings and nails that had reportedly been packed into the device were gathered from the scene. No suspects have been identified yet, but security camera footage is being analyzed, according to reports.
In a television interview late Friday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed to tighten security after the blasts. "The incident has to me seriously cast a shadow over the election. We will hold the election one way or another. We are trying to hold this election in the best possible conditions, increasing all security measures," he said, according to Reuters.
Erdoğan described the incident as a “provocation” designed to induce panic ahead of the election, Reuters reported.
The HDP’s electoral run has been deeply contentious, as it hopes to cross the 10 percent vote threshold necessary to enter parliament. Polls from May have indicated that the party is set to acquire enough votes to prevent the ruling Justice and Development (AK) party from gaining a sweeping majority.
Turkish nationalists have clashed with HDP supporters at previous rallies, including one attended by Demirtaş in the northern town of Erzurum. Demirtaş reportedly claims to have been the target of over 70 violent attacks during the election campaign.
Under Demirtaş, the HDP has seen support from constituents traditionally ignored by AK, including women, secularists and Kurdish minority voters. It is the only mainstream party with a strong focus on gay and women’s rights, and a “party of all,” Demirtaş told Agence France-Presse. "We are a party of all oppressed," he added. "We will garner votes from all over Turkey."
The political integration of Turkey’s contentious Kurdish minority has proven to be a major issue in the election. Government officials have sought to link the HDP to the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), an alleged militant group. The PKK is currently locked in peace talks -- launched two years ago by its jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan -- with the government.