Ankara to swiftly dismiss mayors seen as PKK-linked, says Erdoğan

The Turkish government will appoint trustees to local municipalities determined by Ankara to support the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Monday.

“If you happen to send the opportunities provided by the state to Qandil [Mountains], then we will once again, immediately and without delay, appoint our trustees. And we will not continue the way with you,’’  left-wing news site Gazete Duvar quoted Erdoğan as saying at a rally in the central Anatolian province of Yozgat, in an apparent reference to the PKK headquarters in Iraq.

The Turkish president’s warning arrives weeks before the local elections set to take place on March 31.

The government of Erdoğan,  following the July 2016 coup attempt, removed from office more than 80 of the 103 elected mayors representing the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and replaced them with government-appointed administrators as part of a crackdown on the HDP for its alleged ties to the PKK, an armed group at war in Turkey for over 30 years.

The HDP has announced that it is aiming to win back the municipalities it lost to state-appointed trustees in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority east and southeast in upcoming local elections.

Ankara accuses the HDP of harbouring sympathies and working in the interest of the PKK, designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States, and the European Union.

The HDP, for its part, denies the claim of being PKK-linked.

Erdoğan stressed that Turkey would not let the country be divided by the HDP and quoted HDP co-chair Sezai Temelli as saying, ‘’We’ll win in Kurdistan. And we will have the AKP and MHP [Nationalist Movement Party] lose in the West.’’

Turkey’s strongman also claimed that PKK militants disguised as members of the country’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and nationalist centre-right Good (İYİ) Party were planning to register poll officials in many locations on March 31.

The opposition alliance between the CHP and Good Party would change Turkey’s boundaries in accordance with those of terror organisations, Erdoğan added.