Turkish electoral board hijacks Van mayorship from DEM Party for AKP candidate

The Van provincial electoral board in eastern Turkey has rescinded DEM Party candidate Abdullah Zeydan's victory in the mayoral elections by taking away his right to be elected upon the Justice Ministry's application. The mayorship was presented to the ruling AKP candidate who came second with 27.15% of the votes.

Duvar English

The provincial electoral board in Turkey’s eastern Van province on April 2 presented the metropolitan municipality mayorship to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidate, despite the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party's overwhelming victory in the mayoral elections.

The electoral board ruled to hand the “certificate of election,” a document that signifies the elected candidate’s right to govern, to AKP’s Abdullahat Arvas, who earned only 27.15% of the votes in the province. 

The board decided to revoke the DEM Party co-candidate Abdullah Zeydan's right to be elected, as per the Justice Ministry’s recent application. 

Turkey’s Justice Ministry applied to revoke the vested rights it had agreed to grant to the previously jailed Zeydan in 2022, minutes before the work week ended on March 29. 

Abdullah Zeydan was sentenced to over eight years for “abetting” and “propagandizing for a terrorist organization” back in 2016. He was released in 2023 after the Court of Cassation had reversed his sentence. 

After his release, he had regained the right to vote and be elected. The Supreme Election Board (YSK) had investigated and approved Zeydan’s candidacy. 

Zeydan won the Van metropolitan municipality with co-candidate Neslihan Şedal by an overwhelming 55.48% of the votes.

Zeydan’s lawyer stated that this was a “first” in the Republic’s history, and they were initiating a legal process against the electoral board’s decision. 

“The unfolding of events suggests this was pre-planned,” added lawyer Mahsuni Karaman. 

The DEM Party administration published a statement on the development. “We reject the electoral board’s unlawful decision to grant the certificate of election to the AKP’s candidate. It is an extension of the political coup the government has been organizing against our party,” the statement read. 

The party also suggested that the electoral board was pre-arranged to rule against Zeydan’s appointment. 

Leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Özgür Özel also evaluated the decision as an “ambush” against the DEM Party voters’ democratic will, in an interview with the ANKA News   Agency. 

“The candidate applied on time, received his appeal documents, finalized the restitution of his divested rights, and campaigned for months. Revoking this right with a last-minute application is nothing but ignoring the Van public’s will,” he said. 

DEM Party won all of the 13 district municipalities, along with the metropolitan municipality in the Kurdish-majority eastern province. 

The metropolitan municipality was under a trustee administration, appointed by the government. In the 2019 local elections, the DEM Party's predecessor Peoples' Democracy Party (HDP) had similarly won the municipality with %53.8 of the votes. 

Months after the elections, the Interior Ministry ousted elected co-mayor Bedia Özgökçe Ertan, saying there were probes in effect for her alleged involvement with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).