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Pro-Kurdish party calls for early elections after removal of its mayor

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Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party) has called for early elections amid the removal of its mayor in a southeastern city from office, saying the government has lost its legitimacy by disrespecting the will of the people, the Artı Gerçek news website reported.

On Monday the interior ministry announced the removal of former Hakkari co-mayor Mehmet Sıddık Akış of the DEM Party from office due to an ongoing investigation and a separate trial on terrorism-linked charges. He was replaced by Hakkari Governor Ali Çelik. The ministry’s move attracted widespread criticism and protests for being “anti-democratic” and “hijacking” the will of the Kurdish people.

DEM Party Co-chairperson Tülay Hatimoğulları, who has been in Hakkari for several days to join demonstrations protesting Akış’s removal, and the party’s other co-chairperson, Tuncay Bakırhan, met with representatives from civil society organizations in Hakkari on Thursday.

Hatimoğulları said at the meeting that Turkey should immediately hold early elections because the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its far-right ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), have lost their legitimacy, resorting to illegitimate measures to stay in power.

She said the results of the March 31 local elections in which the AKP sustained its worst election defeat since its establishment in 2002 and the MHP lost significant public support made clear that they no longer have legitimacy.

The March 31 elections produced surprising results for the AKP, with the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) emerging as the country’s leading party for the first time in decades, receiving 37.7 percent of the vote. The AKP’s nationwide support, however, stood at 35.4 percent, while the MHP garnered 4.9 percent.

She accused the AKP and the MHP of taking political revenge for their election loss on the DEM Party by removing its democratically elected mayor.

Akış, the first mayor ousted from office since the March 31 local elections when the DEM Party won a dozen provincial municipalities in the predominantly Kurdish southeast, was also handed down a prison sentence of 19 years, six months at the 61st hearing of his trial on Wednesday.

“This illegitimate palace administration and its ally should immediately resign. If they don’t, Turkey should immediately hold early elections. The circumstances necessary for early elections have emerged in the country,” she said.

The last time Turkey held presidential and parliamentary elections was May 2023. The next elections are scheduled for 2028.

Meanwhile, CHP leader Özgür Özel, who refused to call for early elections following the AKP’s electoral defeat on March 31, maintained his stance and said his party would not make such a call.

He told reporters on Thursday that such a decision can only be made upon a demand from the nation, adding that with its 127 seats in parliament, the CHP is not in a position to call for early elections.

The 600-seat Turkish parliament can call early elections only if three-fifths of the lawmakers — 360 MPs — support it.

Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers from the DEM Party on Thursday hung a banner that read “Trustee, go away” on the Bosporus Bridge in İstanbul in protest of the replacement of the DEM Party mayor in Hakkari with a government-appointed trustee.

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