Electoral board will not certify Kurdish mayoral candidates previously dismissed by decree

Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Board (YSK) has ruled that district mayors elected in this year’s March 31 local elections who had previously been stripped of office by presidential decree will not be allowed to take up office.

The second placed candidates will be awarded the mayor’s seat instead, Turkish independent news site Gazete Duvar reported on Wednesday.

The decision will affect four candidates from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). A report on Wednesday said 48 out of 70 HDP candidates who won on March 31 have still not received their official election certification.

According to the YSK’s ruling, the HDP’s candidates for the Bağlar district in the south eastern city of Diyarbakır, and Tuşba, Çaldıran and Edremit districts in Van in eastern Turkey will not receive their certification.

In Edremit, Tuşba and Çaldıran the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s candidates were runners-up and will be awarded the mayor’s positions, HaberTürk reported.

The AKP candidate was also the runner up in Bağlar, where the HDP won 70 percent of votes to the AKP’s 25.4 percent.

The candidates who are now being denied their victories by the YSK were approved to run in the elections by the same institution early in March.

The HDP’s candidate for Bağlar, Zeyyat Ceylan, was like thousands of other Turks dismissed from his teaching position by presidential decree during a two-year state of emergency implemented after the July 2016 coup attempt.

The AKP government said the thousands of public workers dismissed during the state of emergency were linked to terrorist movements. However, critics argue the ruling party used its enhanced powers to purge opposition elements.

People dismissed by decree have a mark added to their official records, making it nearly impossible to be employed in the public sector. However, the YSK allowed candidates dismissed by decree to run in the parliamentary elections last June and take office.

The HDP has been under extreme pressure since 2015, when a peace process between the AKP government and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) broke down, leading to a return to decades of fighting between Turkish state forces and militants seeking Kurdish self-rule.

During the previous period of local administrations elected in 2014, the ruling party removed 94 HDP mayors from office and replaced HDP administrations in 98 out of the party’s 102 municipalities, accusing the HDP politicians of links to the PKK.

In the run-up to the March 31 elections, AKP leader and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he would again replace elected mayors deemed to be PKK-linked with government appointees.