Poll reveals over 75 percent of Turkey’s southeast oppose ousting of mayors

A recent poll has found out that three out of every four people in Turkey’s southeastern Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van provinces say they do not support the government-led move to replace elected mayors with state-appointed officials.

On August 19 Turkey’s Interior Ministry announced the dismissals of Diyarbakir mayor Adnan Selcuk Mizrakli, Mardin mayor Ahmet Turk and Van mayor Bedia Ozgokce Ertan over their alleged involvement in terrorist activities using their offices.

The ruling AK Party (AKP) government has appointed state officials to run the three municipalities instead of the democratically elected mayors from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

Evrensel daily reported on Tuesday that a poll into the matter was conducted by the Diyarbakir-based polling company Rawest, which is known for its opinion polls in Kurdish majority provinces.

The poll asked 1,536 people between August 26 and 30 what they thought about the recent removal of the mayors from their offices to be replaced by trustees.

According to the poll, some 76.4 percent of the citizens in the three key eastern and southeastern provinces are against the government-appointed trustees running the municipalities.

While 81 percent of Diyarbakir’s residents think it was a wrong move by Ankara to appoint trustees to replace mayors, this figure is followed by 70 percent each in Mardin and Van, the study found.

The poll’s results also indicated that supporters of the conservative-Islamist Kurdish Free Cause Party (HUDA-PAR) were more aligned with voters of the pro-Kurdish HDP rather than the ruling Islamist AKP.

Among those who voted for the ruling party in these three provinces, those who don’t identify themselves as Kurdish, meaning Arabs and Turks, think the trustee appointments were justified in larger numbers than citizens self-identifying as Kurdish.

“This shows that even if they voted for the same parties, the Turk- and Arab-identified citizens in the region show different emotional and political reflexes than Kurdish-identified citizens regarding developments on the Kurdish issue,” Rawest explained.

The study further showed that as urbanization and income increase, so does the number of people disagreeing with the AKP’s trustee appointments.

According to the pollster, the ratio of those citizens in all three provinces who do not support the appointment of trustees appeared close to the percentage of votes that the pro-Kurdish HDP garnered from those regions in the June 7, 2015, general election.

Ousted mayors Ertan, Turk, and Mizrakli each received between 53 and 63 percent of votes in the March 31 local election, while the AKP government suffered the biggest setback in its 17-year rule, losing a number of major cities that include financial hub Istanbul and capital Ankara.

Prior to the local polls, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had warned that elected HDP mayors could face terrorism charges and be dismissed from their offices.

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