ANKARA – The Council of Europe’s observation mission in Turkey’s local elections said it was not “totally convinced” that the Turks had a “free and fair electoral environment.”
Andrew Dawson, who led the mission, urged the government to respect the results of the polls, especially in the predominantly Kurdish provinces. Since 2016, the government has replaced officials elected by trustees in 95 counties for alleged links with illegal Kurdish militants.
The Council of Europe acknowledged security concerns on Turkish soil, but said that the Turkish government´s definition of terrorism was not consistent with European standards, especially when it comes to Kurdish political parties such as the People’s Democratic Party (HDP).
Dawson states that “we do not accept assertions that assume that every mayor of the HDP is or could be a terrorist or has terrorist connections.” The European Election Observer also praised the Turkish public for the high 84 percent turnout in the election process and called it a “healthy signal of democratic interest.”
Turkey’s main opposition party said it won control of Ankara in Sunday’s local elections, defeating for the first time the AK Party of President Tayyip Erdogan in the capital.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the Republican Party of the Popular Party (CHP), said that CHP candidates took over the two main Turkish cities of the AKP and also occupied their Izmir stronghold on the Aegean coast.
The defeat of Erdogan’s party in Ankara would be a significant setback for the president who campaigned relentlessly for two months before a vote he described as a “survival issue” for Turkey.
Erdogan has dominated Turkish politics for more than 16 years, thanks mainly to strong economic growth and the support of a constituency of conservative Muslims.
An elective cable full of energy, he has been the country’s most popular politician – though divisive. Erdogan consolidated his power in 2017 after a controversial referendum.
But a currency crisis after last year’s election dragged the lira down by 30% and brought down the economy. With inflation close to 20% and unemployment rising, some voters seemed poised to punish the president.
“The people voted for democracy, they chose democracy,” said Kilicdaroglu, leader of the CHP.
The election was marked by violence, with two people dead in the Malatya province and three others in the southern province of Gaziantep, the Turkish electoral council said.