State appointees replaced three recently elected mayors with the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority southeast Monday morning. Authorities cited alleged misuses of public office and ongoing terror-related investigations into the HDP officials as grounds for their suspension in a statement released by Turkey’s Interior Ministry.
According to the statement, the municipalities had “sought to become logistical centers for ensuring militant [resources], financial support and equipment for supporting terrorist activities.”
The move comes less than five months after the mayors were elected in the March 31 municipal elections and is the latest strike against the HDP, which some Turkish leaders with nationalist leanings and pro-state media outlets claim is a political front for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a militant insurgency that has waged war against the Turkish state since the 1980s.
The dismissed officials — Diyarbakir Mayor Selcuk Mizrakli, Mardin Mayor Ahmet Turk and Van Mayor Bedia Ozgokce Ertan — were confirmed as candidates by Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Council ahead of the March elections. They won their seats with 63%, 56% and 53% of the vote, respectively, but were dismissed Monday morning. The ongoing investigations include charges of making propaganda for a terrorist organization and being a member of an armed terrorist organization.
The Interior Ministry also accused the mayors of offering employment opportunities to family members of deceased PKK militants and showing sympathy for the group by attending the funerals of its members, changing street names to honor the group and observing moments of silence for deceased militants.
Ankara’s appointees have taken over the three districts, taking on the municipal duties of the dismissed mayors. They may keep the positions until the next scheduled municipal elections in 2024.
A number of opposition leaders and HDP officials denounced the move as undemocratic. Newly elected Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) tweeted that appointing trustees to replace elected officials violates “democratic norms” and that “Ignoring the people’s will is unacceptable.”
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