April 24, 2024

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Türkiye restored Zeidan, the pro-Kurdish election winner, to office after days of unrest in Van

Türkiye restored Zeidan, the pro-Kurdish election winner, to office after days of unrest in Van

Image source, Metin Yuksu/EPA-EFE

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Protests in Van were replaced by celebrations as the decision to nullify the result was overturned

Turkey's election body has reversed a decision to overturn the election victory of a pro-Kurdish candidate after days of escalating protests.

Abdullah Zidane won the mayoral elections of Eastern Van Province with more than 55% of the votes.

But election officials awarded victory to a man running for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party with less than half of his votes.

Their decision led to protests and clashes across southeastern Türkiye.

Van regional officials annulled Abdullah Zeidan's election victory, citing his previous conviction during a crackdown on pro-Kurdish politicians in 2016.

Van was one of the ten regions won by the pro-Kurdish Democratic Party in southern and southeastern Turkey in the local elections that took place last Sunday.

The ruling Justice and Development Party suffered its first nationwide electoral defeat since 2002, as the main opposition party, the Republican People's Party, won in 35 provincial capitals and regained control of the major cities of Istanbul and Ankara.

The secular Republican People's Party condemned the cancellation of Mr. Zidane's victory, describing it as a disgrace.

His Democratic Democratic Party denounced the move as a “political coup” and urged Erdogan's government to respect the will of Van voters.

Zeidan spent several years in prison on charges related to his links to Kurdish militants who targeted a number of his party colleagues, including two leaders who remain behind bars. He will be released in 2022.

A court ruling had allowed him to run in the elections, but this was canceled two days before the vote.

The demonstrations broke out in the Kurdish-majority city of Van, with a population of half a million, prompting riot police to use tear gas and water cannons. The ban on protests in the city was ignored.

Thousands of people then took to the streets in other Turkish cities in the south and southeast, and there were marches and protests as far west as Izmir and Istanbul.

On Thursday, Turkey's Supreme Election Council decided to overturn the regional decision to nullify Mr. Zeidan's win, prompting party officials to say that “the will of the people has come back to life.” Protests in central Van were immediately replaced by celebrations.

The newly elected mayor said justice had been served. He thanked supporters and leaders of other political parties who showed solidarity, as well as his fellow Kurdish politicians who remain in prison.

Among the big winners in Sunday's election was Istanbul's popular opposition mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu, who is increasingly seen as the CHP's most likely candidate in the next presidential election in 2028.

He condemned what happened in Van as a “total aberration” and promised to never abandon democracy.

The Republican People's Party was defeated by the Justice and Development Party by less than 4,000 votes in Hatay Province in the far south of Turkey, and the ruling party is accused of trying to steal the elections there.

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