April 11, 2019 / 2:10 PM / 2 months ago

Pro-Kurdish elected mayors stripped of mandates in Turkey over dismissals -party

ISTANBUL/ANKARA, April 11 (Reuters) - Turkey’s chief election authority has ruled that several mayors-elect from the main pro-Kurdish party cannot take up their posts because they were previously dismissed from their jobs under government decrees, the party said on Thursday.

Saruhan Oluc, spokesman for the Peoples Democratic Party (HDP), said his party was being targeted in an “organised political plot” after nationwide local elections on March 31. More than half of the elected HDP mayors are also still waiting to receive their mandates to take up their posts, he said.

The country’s High Election Board (YSK) has rejected several appeals to the initial results by the HDP and other opposition parties. President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party has also had a few objections turned back.

The initial mayoral results show the AKP lost control of Istanbul, the capital Ankara, and other key cities in a shock setback for Erdogan.

The AKP submitted several objections in areas it faced losses and on Wednesday, Erdogan called for an annulment of the Istanbul elections over what his party has described as irregularities affecting the outcome.

The YSK ruled that elected mayors in four districts and a sub-district in southeastern Turkey could not receive their mandate because they had been dismissed in a government decree as part of a crackdown following a 2016 failed coup attempt.

The ruling means that mayors from the pro-Kurdish HDP will not be allowed to take their elected posts, and the mandate will instead be given to the runner-up candidates, which are AKP members.

“The step taken by the YSK is nothing but a part of an organised political plot” by the AKP and its political allies, the HDP’s Oluc said, adding it would drag Turkey into a “very big chaos.”

The YSK declined to comment. The AKP was not immediately available to comment.

Erdogan’s government accuses the HDP of having links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long insurgency in southeastern Turkey. The HDP has denied direct links, but thousands of its members have been dismissed or jailed

HDP lawmaker Mithat Sancar said his party would submit an extraordinary appeal for the annulment of the elections in the five locations, adding that being dismissed through a decree did not prevent a candidate from being elected.

“This decision is wrong altogether and it is against the law and the constitution. It is also a shame for democracy. It would have been better if the decision had not been made, but there is a chance to decrease the damage,” Sancar said.

Voter and candidate lists are presented to the YSK for approval before the elections. Political parties can object to these lists, but there is no legal basis to appeal to the lists after they are finalised, according to the Union of Turkish Bar Association.

Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen, Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay; Editing by Jonathan Spicer

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