Erdogan threatens opposition candidates with arrest ahead of Sunday’s polls

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that his government keeps the criminal records of opposition mayoral candidates and is ready to take steps against them in accordance with the results of the local elections due on March 31.

“The opposition party has a candidate there. He is an individual involved in terrorism,” Erdogan said answering a question regarding the Kurdish-majority Mardin city while addressing the youth in the capital city of Ankara.

“We keep the criminal records of these people. We are going to take the necessary steps according to the results of the elections.”

Using the Turkish abbreviation GBT (General Information Scan), Erdogan referred to the law-enforcement database on criminal records that the national police use to check if there is a detainment order related to an ongoing investigation of a person.

Regulations require Turkish police to exercise the detainment order if they come across a person’s name on the scan while checking their ID number on a device that has access to the database.

However, acknowledging the existence of such records on some of the opposition mayoral candidates, Erdogan said that the necessary steps will be taken depending on the outcome of the elections.

The local elections and “the survival of the state”

The opposition candidate Erdogan cited in his remarks is Ahmet Turk, a former MP of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who is running for the Mardin municipality.

Erdogan has equated HDP with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has waged an armed insurgency in southeastern Turkey for decades.

Lashing at the HDP’s decision not to come up with a candidate for metropolitan municipalities in the western part of Turkey, Erdogan accused the opposition parties of forging a secret alliance with HDP.

Based on these allegations, the Turkish president further accused the opposition, namely Republican People’s Party (CHP) and its ally the Good Party (IYI), of acting at the behest of the outlawed PKK’s chiefs.

These accusations formed the recurrent theme in the election campaign of the ruling AK Party and its ally the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

Throughout the election period, officials of the People’s Alliance, formed by AKP and MHP, alleged that the local elections are not merely about choosing the local administrators, but rather deciding on the fate of the country, for what is at stake is “the survival of the state” they said.

Earlier this week, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu asserted that as the person in charge of security, he would crack down on certain opposition candidates “with terrorism links” if they get elected on Sunday.

Soylu previously alleged that more than 300 opposition candidates running for the city council seats had ties with terrorist organizations.

Following Soylu’s remarks, pro-government newspaper Sabah daily published a list of those candidates with notes beside their names displaying the evidence on which government made the accusations.

CHP’s deputy chairman Gokce Gokcen slammed the list.

“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,” Said Gokcen.

“According to this surrealist list, being a Kurd is enough reason to be labeled a terrorist.”

Erdogan previously vowed to replace the mayoral candidates with government-appointed trustees if they are found to be tied to outlawed groups in the case they get elected in the local elections.

As part of a crackdown on the pro-Kurdish politicians following the failed 2016 coup, the Turkish government-appointed trustees for 94 municipalities out of 102, which were originally run by pro-Kurdish HDP member mayors.

Turkish President threatens to jail two opposition party leaders ahead of elections


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