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Turkish officials reject HDP appeal to cancel election results

The pro-Kurdish political party said there was no atmosphere of 'free and equal voting'
HDP co-chairs, Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, speak at a press conference in Ankara (AFP)

Turkey’s election body has dismissed an appeal by the pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP) to cancel the results of the 1 November elections.

The HDP filed an appeal to the Supreme Election Board (YSK) on 15 November claiming that the election campaign did not take place within the boundaries of “free and equal voting”.

“The election took place against the principle of integrity and the president and the interim government thus put their signature on a major election fraud,” the HDP said in it its petition filed to the YSK.

However, according to Anadolu Agency, the petition was “unanimously” refused by the YSK on Tuesday.

Following the 1 November elections, the HDP found itself with 59 seats, the third largest number in the country compared to 134 for the secularist Republican People's Party (CHP) and 258 seats for incumbent Justice and Development Party (AKP).

However, the HDP lost 21 seats compared with the previous elections in June which produced no majority party.

Overwhelmingly, the seats went to the AKP.

The HDP’s claim rested upon a number of accusations: the use of public resources by the AKP and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to fund their campaign, the effective muzzling of news outlets critical of the government and repeated threats of violence against the HDP, including the bomb attack on a rally in the capital Ankara on 10 October, which left 102 dead.

A report released by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in early September criticised Erdogan’s rhetoric and use of his platform to effectively campaign for the AKP despite a constitutional obligation to impartiality.

“The president played an active role in the election campaign, even though under the constitution he is obliged to be non-partisan and perform his duties without bias,” read the report.

“The president attended an extraordinary number of public events, as head of state, along with local officials; however, these events were used as opportunities to campaign in favour of the ruling party and to criticise opposition figures.”

The HDP also criticised a “disciplinary order” against publications critical of the AKP, in what they described as “a way that could only be seen before during coup eras”.

State of siege

Following the June elections, offices and activists of the HDP repeatedly came under attack from Turkish ultra-nationalist groups.

On 10 October, 102 people were killed following an explosion at a rally of socialist and peace activists, and heavily dominated by HDP supporters.

The attack followed an earlier bomb attack on the HDP and other socialist activists in the border town of Suruc in late July, which claimed 33 lives.

Prior to the June elections, a bomb attack at an HDP rally in Diyarbakir also killed four people and injured over 100.

A breakdown in the ceasefire between the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Turkish state in July also led to what the party described as a state of siege against towns in the primarily Kurdish southeast, where the HDP draw most of its support.

No further elaboration was given by the YSK for the rejection of HDP’s appeal, according to Hurriyet.

‘Great Turkey nation’

The YSK ruling comes following a controversy at the swearing-in of new Kurdish MPs in the Turkish parliament.

Leyla Zana, MP for the Agri constituency, was rejected by the speaker of the parliament after she decided to change the words of the oath of allegiance to emphasise a plurality of ethnicities in Turkey.

In the line which reads “I swear upon my honour and integrity, before the great Turkish nation, to safeguard the existence and independence of the state…” Zana supplemented “Turkish nation” with “Turkey nation” thus removing the ethnic connotation of the pledge.

In response, the speaker of the parliament described the oath null and void and required her to take it again. At this point, she had reportedly left the hall and it is unknown what further action will be taken.

Zana previously caused a scandal in 1991 by speaking Kurdish in the Turkish parliament at a time when the Kurdish language was illegal in the country.

After being elected as the first Kurdish female member of the parliament she ended the oath of allegiance in Kurdish saying, "I take this oath for the brotherhood between the Turkish people and the Kurdish people."

It was the first time Kurdish was spoken in the assembly.

She later spent 10 years in jail following the banning of the pro-Kurdish Democracy Party in 1994 for separatism, but was released in 2004 following hunger strikes and pressure from human rights groups such as Amnesty International who adopted her as a prisoner of conscience.