Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) was accused of hypocrisy for its support of the Turkish government’s practice of removing mayors –- mostly members of a pro-Kurdish party -– without court decisions, during the 42nd Session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe (CoE), Turkish Minute reported, citing the Mezopotamya news agency.
In its latest report on Turkey, the congress highlighted a “generally degrading situation” with regard to local democracy in the country, expressing particular concern about the fact that the government continues to suspend mayors when a criminal investigation is opened against them -– based on an overly broad definition of terrorism -– and replace them with non-elected officials.
Stating that the practice undermines the democratic choice of Turkish citizens and impedes the proper functioning of local democracy in Turkey, the congress called on Turkish authorities to modify the definition of terrorism in its legislation and to stop the practice of removing mayors without court decisions.
Adalet Fidan, a mayor from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), on Tuesday spoke to Mezopotamya, accusing members of CHP of being hypocritical when voting against the report during the 42nd Session of the Congress and defending the practice of replacing mayors with government-appointed trustees.
“The CHP members’ statements there … were extremely sad. In their previous interviews and conversations with us and others, they had said that the [practice of appointing] trustees was unlawful and a usurpation of the people’s will. However, in their speeches at the Council of Europe, they stated that there was widespread terrorism in Turkey and that the [appointment of] trustees was legitimate. This stance of the CHP isn’t acceptable,” Fidan said.
She added that in particular comments by Hasan Aygün, an İstanbul district mayor from the CHP, on the practice of replacing mayors with trustees without court decisions was “very negative” and “shocking” for members from other countries.
“As long as terrorist activities continue in the east, I believe the government will continue to implement such suspensions and removals based on the constitution. Of course, we’d like mayors to be removed by court order. But for democratic progress, we need to see a more sincere approach from the European side, especially the EU,” Aygün was quoted by local media reports as saying during the session.
Speaking to medyascope.tv on Wednesday, the mayor said he had been condemning the practice for years and that his remarks during the session were misunderstood.
“I said that as long as terrorism exists [in Turkey], this authority given to the Interior Ministry by the law, which is also a weapon, will be used by the politicians. … I said this weapon should be taken away from the ministry through a change in the law. I can’t understand how I might have defended [the appointment of] trustees. For years, I have been condemning this practice and arguing that if there is a crime, it should be proven by independent court decisions,” Aygün said.
A political and legal assault on the pro-Kurdish HDP launched by Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) when talks for a truce between Kurdish militants and the government failed in 2015 intensified after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan survived a coup attempt in July 2016 that was followed by a sweeping political crackdown.
As part of its crackdown on the HDP, the AKP government appointed trustees to replace mayors who had been democratically elected in the 2014 local elections. All but six of the 65 HDP mayors elected in the predominantly Kurdish Southeast in 2019 also have been replaced by trustees.
The congress report follows a three-part monitoring visit to Turkey, with the first two parts taking place in October and November 2019 and another visit in December 2021.
The congress had started a monitoring process for Turkey, which ratified the European Charter of Local Self-Government in 1992, with reservations on 10 provisions of the charter due to the violation of some articles.