Turkey: Episodic protests in Van after the mayor of the pro-Kurdish party was cancelled

Episodic protests took place in the following cancellation of the election of the candidate of the pro-Kurdish Equality and Democracy Party (DEM), Abdullah Zeidan, in the city of Van, southeastern Turkey. Abdullah Zeidan was elected in Turkey’s municipal election with 55.51% against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidate, Abdullah Arvas, who received 27.15% of the vote and whom the Supreme Election Commission decided to declare mayor. Zeidan may appeal the decision within three days. There was tension in the area and the protests organized by supporters of the elected mayor were clashed with the Police. Abdullah Zeidan was elected MP from the Democratic People’s Party (HDP) in the elections held on June 7 and November 1, 2015. On 4 November 2016 he was arrested and sentenced to 5 years in prison for “helping an illegal organisation” and 3 years, 1 month and 15 days in prison for “propaganda for illegal organisation”. Zeidan’s prison sentence was cancelled by the Supreme Court of Appeals and released on January 6, 2022. The Supreme Election Commission, with a document lodged at the last minute before the election, claimed Zeidan was deprived of political rights due to his conviction, despite having previously accepted his candidacy. Şırnak Uludere’deki seçim hilerine karşı halkımız İlçe Seçim Kuruluna yürüyor. Kaçak seçmenlerle irademisi gasp edemezsiniz. Bizim olanı alacağız! — DEM Parti (@DEMGenelMerkezi) Following the decision to cancel Zeidan’s election, the DEM issued an announcement stating: “This decision is a continuation of the political coup initiated by government intervention. Our lawyers objected to the decision. We call on the High Election Commission to put an end to this illegality and to accept the will of our people.” At the same time, the co-chairs of the DEM, Tunzer Bakirhan and Tulai Hatimoulari made statements to the press representatives, talking about “a political coup”. In addition to DEM, Republican People’s Party chairman Ozgiur Ozel also reacted to the decision, who said that a trap is being set up for the citizens of Van and their will is cancelled. At the same time, he appointed a three-member committee of party MPs to go to Van. AKP spokesman, Omer Chelik, was asked about this after the party’s Central Committee meeting. Omer Chelik said this issue is legal and is at the discretion of the regional electoral committee. “If they are right legally, anyway the result will be as they want it to be, but if they are not right legally, if the conditions are not met to be elected, if there is a problem in restoring their deprived rights, which is what the regional electoral committee, which has examined it, should all show respect,” he said. About the protests in Van said: “What’s interesting is that they say they must protest democratically and then burn and tear down everything on the streets and attack the police.” At the same time, the AKP objected to the local office of the High Election Commission against the election of co- candidates for the municipality of Diyarbakir, southeastern Turkey, Sera Butzak and Dogan Hutun. The pro-Kurdish DEM party’s fellow candidates received 64.09% of the vote in Sunday’s election. This period shall expire on 7 April. In August 2019, by decision of the Interior Ministry, the mayors of the HDP were removed to 48 municipalities in southeastern Turkey and in their place were appointed government surveyors. Among these municipalities were all three metropolitan municipalities of Diyarbakir, Van and Mardin.