"Local democracy ended" in Turkey's parts that supported pro-Kurdish opposition: Report
A recent report by Washington-based Kurdish Peace Institute (KPI) said that a major reason why the armed conflict between the Turkish military and the Kurdish fighters affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has gone unresolved for four decades is the "systematic exclusion of Kurdish demands for equal political, civil, and cultural rights from Turkey's political sphere," and that the repression of local pro-Kurdish politics since 2014 has become a major part of this exclusion.
Prepared by Meghan Bodette, the Director of Research at the KPI, the report states that "local pro-Kurdish politics has unique relevance for democratization, Kurdish inclusion, and peace-building in Turkey," and that "the degree to which it is able or unable to function is relevant to the status of a geopolitically significant regional conflict."
Ankara's strategy "effectively ended local democracy"
Bodette points out that since abandoning peace talks with the PKK in 2015, the Turkish administrations targeted pro-Kurdish politics at the local level in two ways:
Both "by denying supporters of pro-Kurdish parties the elected representation by removing elected pro-Kurdish mayors and transferring control of municipalities to state appointees, commonly referred to as trustees," and also by "targeting politicians who step up to lead at the local level with politicized accusations of terrorism that facilitate arbitrary detentions, unfair trials, cruel and degrading treatment in custody, and other rights abuses."
She says that since 2015 the strategy of the Turkish administration to install unelected officials in place of elected ones has "consistently left more than 75% of voters who supported successful pro-Kurdish candidates without elected representation, effectively ending local democracy for these constituencies."
A "fundamentally anti-democratic strategy"
"Currently, 77% of voters who supported successful pro-Kurdish candidates at the district level in 2019 and 100% of voters who supported successful pro-Kurdish candidates at the metropolitan municipality level in 2019 live under unelected state appointees."
"The frameworks under which this strategy is possible were fundamentally anti-democratic in their creation, intent, and application and have been condemned by the United Nations and major international human rights organizations. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, among other actors, hold responsibility for this policy and for any and all detrimental impacts it has had on peace and human rights."
Bodette notes that while 68 district municipalities out of 73 that the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) won control of in 2014 local elections were taken over by the state through appointment of trustees, all three BDP-held metropolitan municipalities were also appointed trustees.
In the 2019 local elections, the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) won control of 50 district municipalities, 38 of which were later taken over by Ankara through removal of elected officials and appointment of trustees.
Like the previous term, the mayors of three HDP-held metropolitan municipalities (Diyarbakir, Van and Mardin) were also removed and replaced by state-appointed officials.