Pro-Kurdish party requests poll reruns where its candidates blocked from office

Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said on Thursday it would apply to the Supreme Electoral Board (YSK) to demand a rerun of local elections in districts where its candidates have been elected mayor, but disallowed from taking up their posts after having been previously stripped of office by presidential decree, T24 news site reported.

The YSK ruled on Wednesday that elected mayors who had been sacked from public service following a coup attempt in 2016 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 HDP candidates, including Zeyyat Ceylan, a former teacher who won the mayoral race in the Bağlar district of the southeastern province of Diyarbakır and received 70 percent of votes. In all four districts, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidates came second in the mayoral races on March 31.

Mithat Sancar, the deputy chairman of the HDP’s parliamentary party, said his party would challenge the YSK decision and ask for new elections in all those districts. 

Party spokesman Saruhan Oluç also condemned the YSK for what he called a deliberate conspiracy of the ruling AKP and its far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) ally.

The government replaced more than 90 HDP mayors elected in 2014 local polls with administrators over what is said were their links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Before the March 31 elections, the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu repeatedly said that the government would do the same, if new mayors were linked to terrorist organisations. 

By Wednesday, 48 out of the 71 elected HDP mayors had received their certification of election that is required for them to take office.

“Neither the election law nor the constitution gives the YSK the power to change the election result and hand the authorisation to a candidate not elected,” Oluç said. “Respect the will of the people and the vote,” he said. 

The YSK ruled on Wednesday that the certification of election would be given to the HDP candidate who came second in mayoral race in Rüstemgedik district of the eastern province of Muş, as the major opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate, who won the election, had a criminal record. The HDP said it would not accept the decision, criticising the YSK for overlooking such records prior to approving applications. 

So far, the YSK has only approved a re-run of elections in the Yusufeli district of the Black Sea province of Artvin in northeast Turkey. The CHP appealed the results in Yusufeli, where the AKP candidate won the mayoral race.