Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition calls for elections in towns with dismissed mayors

Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) called for local elections in over 40 towns where the government has since last year dismissed elected mayors and replaced them with state-appointed officials.

The call arrives after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan earlier on Saturday accused the HDP of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), saying his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) would crush the party in the next elections, just as it does with the outlawed group.

“We say, we dare you. We are prepared for any type of election,” the HDP said in a statement responding to Erdoğan.

“Since you have so much assuredness in yourself, then let’s begin by holding elections as soon as possible in the locations in which you assigned state appointed officials, usurping the will of the people,” Evrensel newspaper quoted the HDP as saying.

The Turkish government has dismissed on terrorism charges 45 out of 65 HDP mayors on in the country’s Kurdish-majority southeast region, since the local elections in March last year, replacing the officials with government appointees. Six elected mayors from the party were denied their mandates from the beginning based on similar accusations. 

“Let’s begin in those places, where you have seized the will of the people,” the HDP said.

The HDP became the first pro-Kurdish political party to pass Turkey’s 10 percent electoral threshold in June 2015, and has held on to gain parliamentary representation in each election since.

The Turkish government accuses the HDP of harbouring sympathies and acting in the interest of the PKK and had launched a crackdown on the group since a failed military coup in July 2016.

The HDP denies any links to the militant group.