Not only in Istanbul, but also in several cities and towns in Turkey’s southeast the AKP refuses to accept the results of the municipal elections of 31 March. Assorted tactics are used to not acknowledge the outcome of the elections. Latest tactic: HDP mayors will not be appointed because they were fired from previous jobs by state decree and instead, the AKP runners up will be installed.
The HDP did well in the elections: they won in eight cities (Diyarbakir, Van, Mardin, Batman, Siirt, Hakkari, Iğdır and Kars) and 45 districts. Most of the cities and towns where in previous years the elected co-mayors of HDP were replaced by AKP ‘trustees’, voted overwhelmingly for HDP. In Diyarbakir city for example, the HDP increased its support from 55% to 62% of the votes.
There was also a remarkable loss: the city of Şırnak, one of the HDP strongholds, fell into AKP’s hands. Also in three smaller towns in Şırnak province, Beytüşsebap, Uludere and Güçlükonak, the AKP celebrated a victory. There was, however, nothing legitimate about the victories, as this article explains in detail: the authorities registered thousands of soldiers as eligible voters in these districts, who all voted AKP. The amount of Kurdish voters in Şırnak city had diminished already during the city war that raged there in late 2015, early 2016: tens of thousands of people were displaced and many never returned to their home ground after the war ended.
This tweet shows a video of soldiers being transported to polling stations in army vehicles.
'Elections in Sirnak, 2019', illustration by Heqî.
In cities and districts where the HDP has won, the AKP applies every trick in the book not to hand over power. In total, 48 out of 70 HDP candidates who won the elections have still not received their official election certificates. In four cases, regional election boards have decided to hand the certificates to the runners-up, in all cases AKP candidates. This will happen in Bağlar, a district in Diyarbakır city where the HDP won 70% of the votes, and in the smaller towns of Edremit, Çaldıran and Tuşba in the province of Van. The HDP mayors cannot take their places, the AKP controlled authorities decided, because they were dismissed from their jobs per state decree during the state of emergency that was declared after the 2016 coup attempt. For example, Zeyyat Ceylan, the HDP candidate who won in Bağlar, was dismissed from his job as a teacher.
Many argue that if such a dismissal were an objection against taking office, these candidates shouldn’t have been allowed to run in the first place. Now that they have won, the authorities seek reasons not to appoint them and let the AKP-candidates take their place. The HDP will object.
Another winner who hasn’t been certified yet is Ahmet Türk, the veteran Kurdish politician who was elected co-mayor of Mardin in 2014. He was replaced by an AKP administrator but he and his co-candidate Figen Altındağ won with 56% of the votes. The AKP objected to his win, saying he was replaced before, but the regional council rejected the objection: Türk had not been dismissed by decree, like the winners in Bağlar, Edremit, Çaldıran and Tuşba. The High Election Board is now to decide on Türk’s fate.
Update on 13 April: The High Election Board has rejected AKP's objections (two which AKP added that Türk couldn't full fill his task due to being 'old and sick') and Ahmet Türk will be granted his election certificate. Türk about AKP's objection: 'I may have aged but I feel young. I look at the future with hope, I will always believe in peace and democracy and I still have things to say.'
And the winners in Diyarbakır greater municipality? The co-mayoral candidates for HDP, Adnan Selçuk Mızraklı and Hülya Alökmen Uyanık, won with 62% of the votes. The prosecutor has now launched an investigation against them on terrorism charges for ‘singing the anthem of the organisation’ (the PKK), which ‘praises the armed terrorist organization and the terrorists, chanting slogans in favour of Abdullah Öcalan, the ringleader of the terrorist organization, and making statements that praise the terrorist organization and the terrorists’. Any chance of the winners taking their seats is now minimized.
While the AKP demanded and was granted re-counts of the votes in several districts in Istanbul, where CHP candidate Ekrem Imamoğlu won, the authorities refuse re-counts in Kurdish districts where the AKP won with sometimes the smallest margins possible. Most remarkable is the situation in Malazgirt, in Muş province: the AKP won with a margin of three votes. Considering the huge amount of invalid votes (often considered invalid due to a vague or not clearly placed stamp), a re-count seemed logical.
A similar situation applied in the city of Muş, where the well known Kurdish politician Sırrı Sakık was a co-candidate. The AKP candidate won with a margin of 538 votes, while the number of invalid votes was 2,449. HDP co-leader Pervin Buldan went to Muş and stated: ‘There is fraud and there are stolen votes’. The party vowed to take the situation in Muş province to the highest authorities in the country.
Muş is not the only province where re-counts were rejected despite small margins. This was also the case in Gercüş (Batman province, 43 vote margin), Şemdinli (Hakkari province, 154 vote margin), Tatvan (Bitlis, 290 vote margin), Dargeçit (Mardin, 664 vote margin) and Viranşehir (Urfa, 757 vote margin).
Meanwhile, detentions of elected officials have started in Kurdistan. On 10 April, for example, two newly elected members of the local council, Celil Çelebi and Ramazan Diril, were among eight people detained in Viranşehir, Urfa province.
As for the Kurds, they are not surprised. They know the state well. They knew that their wins would not be accepted. Why did they participate in the elections anyway? They wanted to show that despite the suppression used against them, despite the state-appointed ‘mayors’ that replaced their elected officials in the last couple of years, they still have huge support among the people. And they showed that they do.
In several towns in Kurdistan, local authorities have issued protest bans.
On 31 October 2016, four days before he was imprisoned, former HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş phrased it , as this clip shows, like this, referring to Erdogan: "The gentleman in the palace thinks elections are unnecessary. He only sees those who vote for him as voters, citizens, compatriots. anybody else outside of that, and any other elections, is a nuissance for him. In his mind, the one election that needed to be won was the presidential election, and all other elections are essentially unnecessary. In his mind, he has won the right to rule over Turkey for the rest of his life, and any other elections are unnecessary. After all, he is the one who knows best for all of us. That is how he sees things. Turkey will never advance through this way of thinking."