HDP aims to regain control of southeast Turkey

<p style="text-align: left;">Turkey&amp;rsquo;s pro-Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) hopes to retake control of mayorships and city councils across the country&amp;rsquo;s southeast in Sunday&amp;rsquo;s local elections, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

The HDP won 102 district and city municipalities in the 2014 local elections, but, following military operations in southeastern cities in late 2015 and early 2016, Turkish authorities dismissed 95 HDP mayors over terrorism charges, replacing them with appointees.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to again replace HDP mayors after the March 31 vote, if they have ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Turkey&rsquo;s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said this week that 178 current election candidates were being investigated over PKK links. Pro-government media outlets have published lists of local council candidates they said were tied to the PKK, providing as evidence police reports that dating back to the early 1990s in some cases, Reuters reported.

After the Turkish government seized the control of local councils in southeast Turkey, many municipal employees also found themselves unemployed. In Diyarbakır, the largest city in Turkey&rsquo;s southeast and the heart of the Kurdish political movement, the government-appointed mayor sacked some 15,000 local council workers, including 31 who had worked for the municipality&rsquo;s theatre. One of them, actor Kemal Ulusoy, told Reuters that the municipal elections were just another performance staged by authorities.

&ldquo;What we are seeing is not democracy. An election is only held as a formality, to give him the appearance of legitimacy. He can still do what he wants,&rdquo; Ulusoy said, referring to Erdogan. Ulusoy, who has set up a new theatre with his colleagues, said the government-appointed mayors also led to a spectacular destruction of art and culture in the city.

Ulusoy&rsquo;s views were shared by many HDP supporters who attended Kurdish New Year celebrations in Diyarbakır last week, Reuters said. &ldquo;The president uses very divisive language. Anyone who doesn&rsquo;t support him is painted as a traitor,&rdquo; said Geylani Alpay, complaining about his vehicle being searched three times on his journey to the celebrations.

Yet according to the supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which received 35 percent of the vote in Diyarbakır in the 2014 local elections, state-appointed mayor Cumali Atilla has improved security in the province, while investing 1.25 billion lira ($224 million) for roads and parks.

&ldquo;We can sit in the park in the evenings with our wives. We couldn&rsquo;t do that in the past because it was too dangerous,&rdquo; Reuters quoted Yilmaz Polat, a cotton farmer, as saying.

While new concrete buildings have been rising in Diyarbakır&rsquo;s Sur district, which was largely destroyed during fighting between the Turkish state and the PKK in 2016, extensive building of highways, apartment blocks and shopping malls has transformed the appearance of the city, Reuters said.

Reporter&rsquo;s code: 50101

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