Apr 18 2019

Turkish opposition leader defends disqualified Kurdish mayors

Turkey’s main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu called on the Supreme Election Council (YSK) on Thursday to reverse its decision to prevent mayors elected for a pro- Kurdish party taking office, private news channel NTV reported.

More than 130,000 public servants in Turkey were dismissed by government decrees during two years of emergency rule declared following a coup attempt in July 2016. The YSK ruled on Wednesday that elected mayors who had been sacked from public service were not eligible for authorisation, though no such condition had been announced before elections. The YSK said the candidate who came second would be able to serve in the post instead. 

The decision affects four candidates elected mayor for the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in four districts of east and southeast Turkey, where the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidates came second in the mayoral races on March 31

“Not mentioning this would be disgrace from the perspective of democracy,” Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kılıçdaroğlu told a news conference referring to the YSK decision.

“I want to make here a call to the members of the YSK. You let these people run in the elections,” he said. “Now some of them won the election, some did not. Now you have to give the election certificates of those who did,” he said.

The secularist leader said that the decision violated human rights, democratic values, and the rule of law, adding that only legal decisions could limit the right to be elected, but the government decrees that formed the basis of dismissals were administrative decisions. 

“If we are supporting democracy, we should also support rights, justice, and fairness for those who do not think like us, who are different from us. As the leader of a political party that supports democracy, it is my natural right to invite the once more the YSK to fulfil its responsibilities and ask it to review its decision,” Kılıçdaroğlu said. 

The YSK on Thursday rejected the HDP’s appeal to overturn its decision on mayors banned from the public sector. 

The CHP has been criticised by some analysts for being vocal about its own Istanbul mayoral candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu, who only took office 17 days after the election as a result of delays caused by AKP appeals, while being silent when it comes to the HDP.

The pro-Kurdish HDP urged its supporters in the west of the country to vote tactically for other opposition candidates to weaken the AKP. HDP votes were pivotal in elections won by CHP candidates in the most populous cities, Istanbul and Ankara, a major blow to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 

Some analysts suggest the alliance between the opposition parties is fragile, as the other opposition parties will not back HDP when it faces pressure from the government, as it did when the government replaced more than 90 elected HDP mayors with appointed administrators and jailed the party’s former co-chair, Selahattin Demirtaş. 

In an interview with the Iraqi Kurdish Rudaw news site on Thursday, İmamoğlu said he did not have detailed information on the charges against Demirtaş, but he believed in the rule of law. İmamoğlu said Turkey had suffered a lot because of punishments for opinions. 

“During the time Selahattin Demirtaş was active in politics, I liked his political approach. He really used a peaceful, conciliatory rhetoric that emphasised universal values. On my behalf, I expressed that this could be an opportunity for Turkey and could demolish many walls. I still believe so,” İmamoğlu said.