Opposition figure who ousted Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s nominee restored to Van’s mayoral position

4 Apr 2024
Opposition figure who ousted Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s nominee restored to Van’s mayoral position

Turkish authorities have yielded to significant protests in the southeastern city of Van, reversing their decision to disqualify an opposition politician who secured victory over the candidate from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling party in Sunday’s election.

Van, a vibrant city situated near Turkey’s border with Iran, erupted into jubilant celebrations on Wednesday and Thursday following the announcement by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM) that its mayoral candidate would indeed receive the mandate to govern.

Previously, provincial authorities had disqualified DEM candidate Abdullah Zeydan and announced plans to replace him as co-mayor with a runner-up from Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Zeydan had triumphed over AKP candidate Abdulahat Arvas by a significant margin of 28 percentage points in Sunday’s race, securing 55 per cent of the vote, as reported by the state-run Anadolu news agency. Overall, DEM clinched victories in 10 provincial capitals, compared to eight in 2019.

The reversal occurred following intense protests that rocked Van after Sunday’s local elections, marking the AKP’s worst defeat since its inception over 20 years ago, co-founded by Erdoğan.

Initially pledging non-interference in the outcomes, Erdoğan and his government mostly accepted results in major cities across western Turkey. However, the AKP initiated a recount in Istanbul’s Beykoz district after its mayoral candidate was defeated by the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). Despite this, the country’s election board eventually upheld the result, cancelling the recount, as confirmed by the CHP on Thursday.

Meanwhile, in Istanbul, CHP member Ekrem İmamoğlu successfully defended his position as mayor against the AKP’s strong attempts to regain control of the municipality. However, disputes between the CHP and AKP continued in other races in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, as of Thursday.

In Van, located in the southeast with a significant Kurdish population, outrage erupted over the interference in its election process. Following the resistance of the Kurdish people, allies, and the democratic public, it was decided to award the election certificate to Abdullah Zeydan, co-mayor of Van Metropolitan Municipality, as announced by DEM in a statement on Wednesday night.

The clashes between police and demonstrators in Van echoed the Gezi Park protests from a decade ago, initially starting in Istanbul but later evolving into one of the most significant national public uprisings against Erdoğan since he assumed power at the beginning of the millennium.

A resident of Van described chaotic scenes on Tuesday night, with fires everywhere and the constant sound of police tear gas bombs, likening the situation to a war zone.

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