Pro-Kurdish mayors’ removal violates rule of law in Turkey, Imamoglu tells Europeans

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu has told a Council of Europe Congress in Strasbourg that Turkey’s recent dismissal of Kurdish mayors is against the rule of law, the T24 news portal reported on Thursday.

The 37th Session of the Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities on Wednesday adopted a report on Turkey presented by Congress Rapporteur Andrew Dawson that is titled “Local elections in Turkey and Mayoral re-run in Istanbul.”

The report, which includes recommendations to improve Turkey’s election conditions, came as a result of the Congress’ mission to observe the March 31 local elections and the June 23 re-run of the metropolitan mayoral election in Istanbul, at the invitation of the Turkish authorities.

After AK Party (AKP) government had lost Turkey’s many largest cities, including the capital Ankara and business hub Istanbul to the main opposition in March, the High Election Board (YSK) decided in a much-criticized move to annul Istanbul’s results and hold a re-run in the city.

“Despite AKP’s power [allowing it to have YSK repeat the mayoral polls in Istanbul], our citizens’ powerful will was again on the side of democracy with them having louder voices this time,” said Imamoglu on Wednesday, referring to his second and bigger Istanbul victory in June.

He also commented on the dismissals of more than a dozen pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) mayors from their posts, in the aftermath of March polls, over investigations involving terror-related charges against them.

The ruling AKP accuses HDP of having links to the Kurdish separatists in Turkey called the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is regarded as a terrorist organization by Ankara.

“There could be no democracy or the rule of law in a place where those who come to office through an election leave the office without one,” the mayor argued during Wednesday’s meeting.

Imamoglu added that replacing Kurdish mayors with state-appointed officials and arresting some of them are actions that violate the rule of law in Turkey.

“Political formations and their elected administrators, lawmakers and mayors [in Turkey] are either in or out of the law. It’s the judiciary that can place a final judgment on this issue and not the political power,” he explained.

It is not acceptable to discriminate between political parties and their elected representatives, the mayor emphasized.

The Congress decided on Wednesday to commission a Group of Independent Experts on the European Charter of Local Self-Government (GIE) member to carry out an analysis on YSK’s decision for Istanbul re-run and denial of the mayoral mandate for successful HDP candidates in southeastern Turkey.

The YSK had also ruled that a number of elected HDP mayors could not receive their mandate due to being dismissed from their jobs under government decrees as part of a crackdown on Kurdish politicians in Turkey after a failed coup attempt in 2016.

Among the recommendations stated in Wednesday’s report for Turkey are the enhancing of the clarity of election legislation and harmonizing all election-related laws, removing limitations of freedoms of association, assembly and expression and strengthening the independence and impartiality of the YSK.

The Congress also advised the governing AKP to “establish an impartial and effective media monitoring system to ensure a level playing field with regard to the media coverage prior, during and after elections,” and “revise anti-terrorism legislation allowing prosecution of journalists based on the content of their reporting.”

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