Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan vowed to seize municipalities in mainly-Kurdish provinces once again by appointing trustees immediately after upcoming local elections take place if Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) mayoral candidates come out of ballot box victorious.
“Elections are nearing. If those involved with terror come out of the ballot box, we shall appoint trustees with no delay,” Erdogan said.
“Erdogan is already declaring that he will not recognise a people’s will even if it comes out of the ballot box,” the opposition People’s Republican Party (CHP) lawmaker Sezgin Tanrikulu said.
On August 15, 2016, an amendment was proposed at the plenary session of the Turkish parliament that includes an article about a regulation that would allow the Ministry of Internal Affairs to appoint trustees to municipalities, replacing democratically elected HDP co-mayors. Following intense objections from opposition parties, the article was removed from the amendment. Despite this, an emergency rule decree allowing the Ministry of Internal Affairs to appoint trustees to replace co-mayors was announced on official gazette and this decision was put into force on September 1, 2016.
When the dismissed co-mayors were asked, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had previously praised the will of people against the coups repeatedly, did not hesitate to say, “Some ask how the elected could be sacked. They could be sacked without a hitch”. When asked about the trustees, Suleyman Soylu, the new Minister of Interior, said, “I will speak openly: We will be cruel.”
Currently, 94 of 102 municipalities in Kurdish-majority cities and towns are administered by Ankara-appointed trustees as the Erdogan administration moved in late 2016 to depose, arrest, and jail mayors elected in the previous 2014 vote with charges of “aiding and abetting terrorist organisations” with state resources and tax money. Although the Ministry of Interior inspectors have investigated the budget and financial accounts of the municipalities for months, they could not find any single piece of evidence to justify these accusations.
Taking over Kurdish city halls like invaders, the appointed trustees hung huge Turkish flags on the municipal buildings, also removing signs written in Kurdish and Armenian. The police and military officers surrounded and seized public buildings with armed vehicles as if they were invading enemy territories. Consequently, it has become almost impossible for city dwellers even to access the municipalities that are supposed to provide services.