Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Elections Board Bar 12 Kurdish Politicians, Sparks Uproar

Turkey's election board is at the center of what could be a major crisis. On Monday, the elections board voted to bar 12 BDP candidates from running in June's elections.From Hurriyet Daily News:
"Prominent leaders of the Kurdish movement such as Leyla Zana and Hatip Dicle, as well as Gultan Kışanak and Sebahat Tuncel, who are already in Parliament, were among the people affected by the Supreme Election Board, or YSK’s, decision late Monday.
The board announced that 12 independent candidates, seven of them backed by the pro-Kurdish peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, could not run in the June 12 general elections due to earlier convictions, though it later indicated that some of the decisions could be reversed if certain conditions were met.
In its reasoning released Tuesday, the YSK said it cancelled the candidacy of 10 applicants, six of them BDP deputies, because they did not submit their documents regarding the court decisions that reinstated their right to vote and be elected after being convicted of certain crimes.
The YSK based its decision on Article 76 of the Constitution, which stipulates that those who have been convicted of involvement in terror-related acts or encouraging terrorist acts are not eligible to run for election. The article also bars people who have been sentenced to a prison term totaling one year or more, excluding involuntary offences, or to heavy imprisonment, from running as a deputy in elections.
The YSK said in a statement that on Wednesday it would review additional documents submitted by some of the barred candidates. The board also said if the necessary documents are submitted and approved, then the candidates could stand for election.
BDP officials have issued a furious response to the decision, threatening to withdraw from the June elections if the situation is not remedied. “We are even considering pulling back from the elections. We’ll announce our final decision Thursday after a meeting with all our independent deputies,” BDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş told reporters late Monday."
Protests ensued in Istanbul and in the southeast, some turning violent. In Istanbul, BDP supporters staged a sit-in in Taksim Square before marching into Aksaray, where there were clashes with police. In the southeast, protests were particularly violent in Diyarbakir (where the Firat News Agency reported  a 15-year old boy was shot), Van, and Yuksekova. For a video of the protests in Istanbul, click here.

Demirtas called on all political parties to respond to the decision. CHP leader Kemal Kicidaroglu threw his support behind the BDP, calling on the AKP to join it in any necessary options that need to be taken to save the party.

The move by CHP should win it sympathy among Kurds and BDP supporters. It was just two years ago that the CHP would have relished in this kind of decision. Of course, the party stands to benefit since the BDP is the main opposition to the AKP in Turkey's mostly Kurdish southeast. A BDP-CHP coalition . . . highly, highly unlikely, but the "what if" question is out there.

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