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DEM Party victorious in much of Turkey’s SE despite claims of voter fraud

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Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party) emerged victorious in Turkey’s local elections on Sunday, winning a dozen municipalities in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast despite the fact that the party raised allegations of voter fraud that benefited the ruling party.

The DEM Party won three metropolitan municipalities out of 30, seven provincial municipalities and 54 district municipalities in the March 31 local elections, according to preliminary results announced by Ahmet Yener, chairman of the Supreme Election Board (YSK) on Monday.

Nationwide support for the DEM Party stood at 5.7 percent, with 2.6 million people voting for it.

Nikolaj Villumsen, a member of the European Parliament, congratulated the DEM Party and the democratic opposition in Turkey on their victory over President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the local elections.

“Despite the oppression, fraud and even killings – the Green Left managed to win the Kurdish provinces and increase its nationwide support!” he said on X, referring to the name of the DEM Party’s predecessor, which ran in the May general election under the name of the Green Left Party.

The DEM Party won the elections in the eastern and southeastern provinces of Diyarbakır, Mardin and Van — all metropolitan municipalities — and in the Tunceli, Batman, Iğdır, Muş, Siirt, Hakkari and Ağrı municipalities.

In its stronghold of Diyarbakır, DEM Party candidates won in 15 out of 17 districts, while in Van, the party won all the district municipalities in addition to the Van Metropolitan Municipality.

The party’s vote fell in 15 provinces across the country, while it increased in 64 provinces when compared to the results of its predecessor, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the 2019 elections.

The HDP secured 5.8 percent of the vote in 2019, receiving the support of 2.7 million people.

The party increased its vote in İstanbul by 2 percent, where the party’s mayoral candidate, Meral Danış Bektaş, received 2.1 percent.

The HDP did not nominate a mayoral candidate in İstanbul in the 2019 election, when the city’s Kurds backed main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu, helping him secure a victory and end the years-long Justice and Development Party (AKP) rule in Turkey’s economic powerhouse.

Although the DEM Party this time nominated its own candidate, Kurds overwhelmingly supported İmamoğlu on Sunday, helping him win again against the AKP candidate by securing more than 51 percent of the vote.

Bektaş, who spoke about the election results in İstanbul on Sunday evening, said DEM Party supporters voted for İmamoğlu in order to punish the AKP and prevent its candidate from winning the election.

“İmamoğlu should never say the vote he received came from his [CHP] voters. Our supporters voted for him in order to punish the AKP,” said Bektaş.

Shortly after voting began in Sunday’s elections, DEM Party members, locals and observers in Turkey’s southeast brought up allegations of voter fraud that favored the AKP. They claimed that a large number of police officers and soldiers who are not registered locally were voting illegally in the predominantly Kurdish southeast in order to influence the elections to the benefit of the AKP in the region.

They posted videos on social media showing long queues of non-local and presumed soldiers and police officers in front of voting stations in the country’s southeast.

Locals and DEM Party officials were seen in the videos reacting to the presumed soldiers and police officers and asking them why they were waiting to cast their votes although they don’t live in that particular place.

According to DEM Party officials, the party lost the elections in Şırnak, Kars and Bitlis provinces due to the “transported voters” from other provinces. The AKP won the municipalities of Şırnak and Bitlis, while its far-right ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), won Kars.

On Monday locals in Şırnak’s Uludere district, where an AKP candidate was announced as the winner of the election, marched to the provincial election authority to protest the election result. They say the AKP candidate, Gürgin Ürek, who won the election by a slight margin, against DEM Party candidate Ali Ürek, was elected thanks to the voters transported to the area.

DEM Party mayors face the risk of replacement by government-appointed trustees despite winning Sunday’s vote.

In the local elections of March 31, 2019, the HDP won 65 municipalities in Turkey’s eastern and southeastern regions. But due to the decisions of Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Board (YSK) in six cases and the Interior Ministry, nearly 50 mayors have been removed from office or not allowed to assume office.

The Turkish government has systematically appointed trustees to replace democratically elected mayors in the country’s Kurdish-majority regions on terrorism-related accusations.

Pro-Kurdish parties in Turkey are frequently accused of having ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and its Western allies. The parties deny the charges and label them as politically motivated to attack the Kurdish political movement.

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