Days before Turkey’s local elections, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said that he will lay off opposition candidates accused of having links to the terrorist organizations by the government if they are elected on 31 March, on Monday.
On March 7, Soylu alleged that the opposition’s Nation Alliance, comprising of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Good Party (IYI) and the Felicity Party (SP), that have 299 candidates for city council seats, have ties with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Kurdish militant group that fought an armed insurgency for self-rule in southeastern Turkey for decades. Soylu vowed to publish the list of those candidates.
Weeks after this allegation, pro-government newspaper Sabah daily published a news story containing the names of opposition candidates, along with information on each candidate that forms the grounds of terrorism accusations. The newspaper claimed that the source of this information was Turkish security forces’ intel services.
During a live broadcast on the state-run TV channel TRT-Haber, Soylu claimed that 231 candidates from the opposition were subjected to some kind of judicial action due to links to outlawed organizations.
According to the figures of Turkey’s Interior Ministry, the judiciary has conducted various kinds of procedural acts, including detainment, imprisonment, and interrogation, on more than half a million people on charges of terrorism after the failed 2016 coup.
Soylu vowed to replace those candidates accused of having ties with terrorist groups if they are elected.
Before the broadcast, CHP’s deputy chairman Gokce Gokcen lashed out at the allegations of Soylu and Sabah daily, saying, “AKP [the ruling party], wounded by the shrinking economy, resorts to criminalize and demonize whoever opposes them.”
“You may as well say ‘Kurd’ outright”
Asserting that Soylu’s statement was not singular but rather was some part of rising action, Gokcen noted, “When we view the list, we see that being from Sanliurfa [A Kurdish-majority city in Southeastern Turkey] or attending an event in 1969 is the evidence of ‘having ties to terrorist groups.’ They wrote ‘From Nusaybin [another Kurdish-majority town]’ in front of the person’s name they label as a terrorist. You may as well say ‘Kurd’ outright.”
Gokcen went on to say, “According to this surrealist list, being a Kurd is enough reason to be labeled a terrorist.”
On the live broadcast, Soylu also played an audio tape of an alleged meeting between some local CHP and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) officials, as evidence of alleged terrorist links.
Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan and his party, AKP, adopted a discourse that equates HDP – which operates legally under Turkey’s political parties act – with the outlawed PKK, which is labeled as a terrorist group under Turkish law.
Out of 102 municipalities that were originally governed by HDP member mayors, 94 of them are now run by trustees appointed by the government instead of the elected mayors, due to a crackdown on the local administration of Kurdish-majority cities.