‘Normalization’ in a nutshell: Erdoğan backs appointment of trustee to replace Kurdish elected mayor

Turkey’s President Erdoğan has commented on the ministry’s trustee appointment decision to replace pro-Kurdish DEM Party's Hakkari co-mayor, and said, “No one should be disturbed by the judiciary's decision on Hakkari.” A Turkish court has recently sentenced the mayor to nearly 20 years in prison over alleged "links to PKK."

Duvar English

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on June 5 commented on the Interior Ministry’s decision to replace a Kurdish mayor with a trustee.

Speaking during the “Anatolia Media Awards” in the presidential palace complex in Ankara, Erdoğan said, “No one should be disturbed by the judiciary's decision on Hakkari.”

Mehmet Sıddık Akış, 53, co-mayor of Hakkari province, from the Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party, was detained on June 3 and accused of having a high-level role in the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group.

On the same day, the Interior Ministry appointed the province’s governor as the trustee mayor, replacing Akış.

A Turkish court sentenced the co-mayor to nearly 20 years in prison on June 5 over "links to militants" in a case that was ongoing for nearly a decade.

In his press conference, Erdoğan claimed, “Anyone who respects the red lines of the law and our democracy and does not deviate from legitimacy can freely engage in politics in this country if there is no legal obstacle. We have never said a word against legitimate politics. No one should be disturbed by the judiciary's decision on Hakkari.” 

“What did (DEM deputies) do, they immediately tried to bring (chaos to) the parliament. There is nothing to be gained by attacking with banners and kicking and punching. Because there are parliamentarians who will defend the law against you,” he added.

Erdoğan also said, “We have taken many steps to strengthen the ground for civil and democratic politics. However, we did not allow the separatist organization to ambush the national will through its political apparatus. Before March 31st, we said, 'If your candidates did not engage in any illegitimate transactions, we have nothing to say to them. But if they have committed illegitimate acts, we have to and will enforce the law'. Hakkari has now been the first step of this. At the moment, the law has done what is necessary and will continue to do so in the future.”

The opposition heavily criticized the appointment of a trustee mayor to replace a democratically elected mayor, saying the municipal council should elect a new mayor instead.

The replacement move came after Erdoğan called for a political “softening” and “normalization” period after his party’s defeat in the local elections. The AKP has become a second party for the first time since its foundation in 2001.

DEM Party co-chair Tuncer Bakırhan previously said the so-called “normalization” process was excluding Kurds.

The appointment of trustee decision reminded the pro-Kurdish party of the same practice implemented back in 2019. 

After the 2019 municipal elections, Turkey detained pro-Kurdish mayors, removing virtually all from their posts to be replaced by state officials over charges of ties to the PKK.

In the March 31 local elections, DEM reaffirmed its regional strength, winning 10 provinces in the mainly Kurdish southeast.