Turkish government’s ongoing assault on local democracy has shifted to another field in the run up to the local elections scheduled for late March 2019. This time the target is “mukhtars” in Kurdish provinces (elected headmen of villages and neighborhoods). After President Erdoğan had pointed at them as the next target by saying, “There are mukhtars who yield to the threats of the PKK, we cannot forgive them,” the Ministry of Interior “launched an investigation” about mukhtars in Kurdish provinces.
On 15 October 2018, Turkish Minister of Interior suspended from duty 103 village and 156 neighborhood mukhtars with the allegation of “being a member of” or “having ties with a terrorist organization.”As expressed in the Ministry’s statement, this decision was taken without finalizing any administrative or judicial proceedings about the mukhtars. The Ministry refers to the laws No 442 and No 4541 regulating the administration of villages and districts to justify suspensions. However, these laws do not give any such authority to the Ministry of Interior. According to Article 41 of the Law No 442 and Article 18 of the Law No 4541, a mukhtar can be suspended or dismissed by the governor or district governor, if he/she does not perform the village affairs and other duties assigned by law. These suspensions are totally unlawful.
As the recent detentions of HDP’s administrators and members, the suspension of mukhtars is clearly another preparation step for the governing AKP’s campaign for local elections. The AKP government has already wiped out most of the structures and institutions of local democracy in Kurdish provinces by replacing 98elected Kurdish mayors with appointed trustees and arresting the majority of them. The suspension of mukhtars is another step in the same direction – another gross violation of the right to vote and to be elected.
The AKP government will increase unlawful pressures on the opposition, as we get closer to the local elections. That will not surprise us. Manipulating people through fear and intimidation and paralyzing the HDP and other forces of the democratic opposition with detentions, arrests, dismissals or suspensions from duty before the elections seems to be the only means in the hands of the government to achieve its goals. The aggression of the AKP, however, is not a sign of strength, but one of fear, weakness, and fragility. As in the previous elections, the democratic will of our peoples will surely survive such unlawful repressive policies of the government.
Deputy Co-chair of HDP Responsible for Foreign Affairs MP for Diyarbakir