Newly elected Kurdish mayor prevented from taking office in Turkish city

On Tuesday, Turkey denied the right for the newly elected mayor from a pro-Kurdish political party to hold office in an eastern city and replaced him with his runner-up in the race — a candidate from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling party. Sunday’s local polls were a blow to Erdoğan and his Islamic-oriented Justice and Development Party after their wins last year in the presidential and parliamentary elections. The main opposition party retained its hold of Istanbul and the capital of Ankara and made huge gains elsewhere while the pro-Kurdish Equality and Democracy Party, or DEM, won several municipalities in Turkey’s mainly-Kurdish regions despite years of repression and thousands of political activists arrested. The decision to revoke the mandate of Abdullah Zeydan, from DEM, after he won in the eastern city of Van, sparked condemnation and street protests on Tuesday. Police used a water cannon and tear gas to disperse in Van. DEM said it would seek to appeal the decision. The main opposition, or CHP, also condemned the move and dispatched a delegation from the party to Van in a show of support to Zeydan. In revoking his mandate, the electoral authority cited a last-minute court decision that reversed an earlier court ruling that said the politician, who spent time in prison, could run for office. Zeydan won 55% of the votes in Van in Sunday’s balloting. The second-placed candidate, Abdullah Arvas of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party, garnered 27%. In addition to Van, DEM won the municipalities of nine provinces in Turkey’s mainly-Kurdish populated southeast. Over the past years, Erdoğan’s government had removed elected pro-Kurdish mayors from office for alleged links to Kurdish militants and replaced them with state-appointed trustees.

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