Critics have raised their concerns about the blacklists of municipal candidates that were published by pro-government media and later openly declared by a Turkish minister on Monday.
Last week, pro-government media outlets published lists pertaining to the candidates for municipal councils, who are claimed to have terror-related links. Opposition candidates have been listed in detail, including information such as names, photos, ID numbers, and intelligence notes stating their alleged links.
On Monday, following the publications, Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu verified the list of candidates and stated that those 378 opposition candidates for municipal councils, who are allegedly affiliated with terrorist groups, would be suspended if elected.
During a TV broadcast on state-owned TRT News, the minister revealed further details, saying, “There are judicial proceedings for 325 candidates due to PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] affiliation, while 45 are due to FETO [Gulen Movement], four are due to extreme left-wing organizations, and four due to ISIS [Islamic State] affiliation.”
A week earlier, Soylu mentioned that a report related to those alleged affiliations would be released closer to the local elections on March 31.
Similarly, on Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that more than 300 opposition candidates in local elections had links with terrorist organizations and would, therefore, be dismissed if they were to win the elections.
“If the ones plagued with terror win elections, we will appoint trustees”
In October 2018, the president explicitly threatened the opposition parties, saying, “If the ones plagued with terror win elections, we will appoint trustees [after the March 31 local elections].”
These statements and publications, ahead of the local elections, drew rebuff from various parties.
Sezgin Tanrikulu, Istanbul MP of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and human rights activist and lawyer, reacted to the blacklisting by the Turkish government and media, stating, “Revealing private information is prohibited according to law 6698 on Personal Data Protection. Those publications are also a direct intrusion to private life. Linking people, who have no conviction, to a terror organization is a bad attack on personal rights,” T24 news reported.
According to Tanrikulu, the candidates have the right to sue the interior minister for damages, including criminal proceedings.
Another lawyer and MP from CHP, Mahmut Tanal, argued that they [minister, president, and media] have been committing a constitutional crime. “Those candidates have no criminal record. They have even got the approval from prosecutors to run in the elections. And the Supreme Electoral Council has found no obstacle against their candidacies. [So then] will the ruling party [Justice and Development Party (AKP)] determine the candidates?” Tanal added.
Yildiray Ogur, a columnist for pro-government daily Karar, wrote that those candidates would likely sue the state and the media outlets for slander. He stated that nothing legally should prevent them from running in the local elections, as they had proven their legal status for a nomination.
Turkish government appoints trustees to opposition municipalities
After April 2015, when the peace process aimed at ending the decades-long conflict between the ruling AKP and PKK failed, the Turkish government started appointing trustees to People’s Democratic Party (HDP) municipalities.
In the wake of the July 2016 coup attempt, with the help of the state of emergency, the number of appointed trustees increased. Ninety-four out of 102 municipalities have been replaced by trustees so far, due to alleged PKK ties of the mayors. They are currently being run by government-appointed trustees.
PKK, an insurgent group fighting for self-rule in the predominantly Kurdish southeast since the early 1980s, is labeled a terrorist organization by Turkey.