Turkish authorities restore pro-Kurdish mayor after protests

Abdullah Zeydan had won 55.5 per cent of votes in Van but was prevented from taking office

Supporters of the pro-Kurdish DEM party celebrate after officials reinstated municipal election winner Abdullah Zeydan in Van, Turkey. AFP
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Turkey's supreme electoral body has reinstated the office-holding rights of Abdullah Zeydan, a pro-Kurdish newly elected mayor, after appeals by his party to revoke the prohibition against their candidate.

The authority on Wednesday overturned a decision by a lower body that prompted widespread protests and led to dozens of arrests.

On Tuesday, a regional election authority revoked the mandate of Mr Zeydan, a politician from the pro-Kurdish Equality and Democracy Party (DEM), who had won the race for mayor in the eastern city of Van and replaced him with the runner-up, a candidate from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Mr Zeydan won 55.5 per cent of the vote, while the AKP candidate landed only 27.2 per cent.

However, the DEM said the Justice Ministry issued a letter objecting to Mr Zeydan's candidacy only five minutes before offices closed on the Friday before the election, leading a court to decide he was ineligible.

The authority cited the last-minute court decision in ruling that Mr Zeydan, who has spent time in prison, was not qualified to run for office.

“This wrong decision must be reversed immediately,” a DEM statement said.

That decision triggered protests in Van and other Turkish cities. Police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse demonstrators and made several arrests.

In Istanbul, police broke up a demonstration by dozens of lawyers who marched to a courthouse to denounce the decision.

The reversal was another boost for Turkey's opposition after Sunday's local elections, which dealt a blow to Mr Erdogan and his ruling party.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) topped the AKP in the overall vote and in many key races, reasserting its relevance with its best national result in nearly half a century.

The CHP retained its hold of Istanbul, the capital Ankara, and made significant gains elsewhere.

Mr Erdogan’s government has previously removed elected pro-Kurdish mayors from office, citing alleged links to Kurdish militants, and replacing them with state-appointed trustees.

Updated: April 04, 2024, 8:07 AM