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Turkish Authorities Reverse Course, Restore Abdullah Zeydan’s Win

Turkey’s electoral body has reversed its decision to invalidate the election victory of a pro-Kurdish candidate following days of mounting protests.

Abdullah Zeydan clinched the mayoral seat in the eastern province of Van with over 55% of the votes.

However, election authorities declared a candidate from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party as the winner despite securing less than half of Zeydan’s votes.

The decision sparked protests and clashes throughout southeastern Turkey.

Officials in Van overturned Abdullah Zeydan’s victory, citing a prior conviction dating back to a crackdown on pro-Kurdish politicians in 2016.

Van was among the ten regions secured by the pro-Kurdish DEM party in Turkey’s southern and southeastern regions during the recent local elections.

The ruling AK Party faced its first nationwide election setback since 2002 as the main opposition, the CHP, triumphed in 35 provincial capitals and regained control of major cities like Istanbul and Ankara.

The secular CHP (Republican People’s Party) denounced the annulment of Zeydan’s win as disgraceful.

His DEM party labeled the move a “political coup,” urging Erdogan’s government to respect the voters’ choice in Van.

Zeydan, who previously served jail time on charges linked to Kurdish militants along with other party members, was released in 2022.

Despite a court ruling allowing his candidacy, it was overturned just two days before the vote.

Protests erupted in Van, a city with a Kurdish majority of half a million people, leading to clashes with riot police deploying tear gas and water cannons. Protests persisted despite a ban imposed on demonstrations in the city.

Subsequently, thousands rallied in other Turkish cities across the south and southeast, with demonstrations stretching as far as Izmir and Istanbul in the west.

On Thursday, Turkey’s Supreme Election Council reversed the regional decision to invalidate Zeydan’s victory, prompting party officials to declare that “the people’s will has prevailed.” Celebrations replaced protests in the heart of Van immediately after the decision.

The newly elected mayor hailed the decision as a triumph for justice, expressing gratitude to supporters, leaders of other political parties showing solidarity, and fellow Kurdish politicians still incarcerated.

One of the prominent winners in Sunday’s elections was Istanbul’s opposition mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu, increasingly seen as the CHP’s potential candidate in the 2028 presidential elections.

Imamoglu condemned the events in Van as a “complete aberration” and vowed to steadfastly uphold democracy.

The CHP, narrowly defeated by the AK Party in Hatay province by less than 4,000 votes, accuses the ruling party of attempting electoral theft in the region.

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