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Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party challenges overturning of candidate’s election victory

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Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party said Wednesday it was contesting a ruling that annulled the election of its mayoral candidate in the eastern province of Van after the election board’s decision sparked clashes, Agence France-Presse reported.

“We made our objection to the Supreme Election Board’s cancelling the candidacy of our Van Metropolitan Municipality Mayor Abdullah Zeydan and giving the mandate to the AKP [Justice and Development Party] candidate,” the Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party) said in a statement.

The DEM Party’s Abdullah Zeydan had garnered over 55 percent of the vote in Van in local elections on Sunday.

But the regional electoral commission said he was ineligible to stand for election, handing city hall to a candidate from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling AKP who received only 27 percent of the vote.

Their decision followed the last-minute reversal of a court verdict that had restored his right to run for office.

Zeydan, who had been elected on the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) (now DEM) ticket in 2015, was arrested in 2016 after criticizing the Turkish army’s air campaign against outlawed Kurdish militants in the Kurdish-majority southeast.

Violent protests against his ouster lasted throughout the night in Van province, which sits on Turkey’s eastern border with Iran.

The local governor’s office banned all demonstrations for 15 days after violence spread to several cities in the region, with some protesters setting police barricades ablaze.

The ban comes after several opposition parties, including the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP), announced that they would send delegations to Van on Wednesday to protest the denial of Zeydan’s victory, calling for the support of the people.

Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said 89 people were detained, 26 of them in Van province, for attending unauthorized rallies and chanting slogans in praise of a “separatist terror organization,” referring to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey and its Western allies.

 

In the southeastern Yüksekova district of Hakkari, 29 people were detained after violent clashes between protesters and police late Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Selahattin Demirtaş, a former HDP leader who is currently in prison, said in a statement conveyed by his lawyers that “this is not the way to respect the will of the people” as the Turkish president had promised to do on election night.

Demirtaş has been behind bars since 2016 on terrorism charges.

“We call on all our people, especially the people of Van, and all pro-democracy forces and political parties to stand against this unlawfulness,” he added.

At least 19 detained in ongoing protests in İstanbul, eastern Turkey

More than 10 associations gathered in front of the İstanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan on Wednesday to issue a statement protesting the overturning of Zeydan’s election victory.

However, the police guarding the courthouse said they could not allow the planned statement to be read due to a decision by the Kağıthane District Governor’s Office, asking the group to disperse.

The group chanted, “Shoulder to shoulder against fascism” and protested the police intervention.

The Media and Law Studies Association reported that at least 14 lawyers including co-chairperson of the Human Rights Association and prominent lawyer Eren Keskin were unlawfully detained during the police intervention, adding that two colleagues were also injured and taken to the hospital.

Lawyers attempting to enter the courthouse following the police intervention were denied entry. The lawyers chanted, “Abdullah Zeydan is our honor” in protest. A scuffle broke out between riot police teams entering the building and the lawyers.

Five people were also detained on Wednesday in Batman province, where protesters threw firecrackers at police, who sprayed them with water cannons.

Scores of security force member were stationed around Hakkari, where protests also took place.

Footage of an incident where a young man was beaten in the middle of the street by a crowd was released on social media. Some users claimed that the assailants were plainclothes police officers, while others alleged that a fight had erupted between supporters of the DEM Party and the AKP.

DEM — accused by authorities of links to the PKK — on Sunday claimed the mayorships of large towns in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority southeast, including the region’s largest city of Diyarbakır.

The movement is also the third-largest party in Turkey’s national parliament.

Fellow opposition party the CHP, which made major gains in the local elections and retained control of İstanbul and other large cities, has backed DEM in its battle against the Van ruling.

A delegation from the party is due to visit Van on Wednesday, the CHP said.

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