Local elections of 31 mars in Turkey and Kurdistan: Call for delegations

Subject: Election Observation Missions to Turkey

This letter is to invite you to observe the upcoming local elections in Turkey that are scheduled for 31 March 2019. We have good reasons to expect that these elections will be held under extremely anti-democratic conditions, as was the case in the recent presidential elections in June 2018 and the referendum in April 2017.

Over the last three years, President Erdoğan and his ultranationalist allies have virtually destroyed the already weak and fragile democratic institutions of the country. The character of this new regime reveals itself best in its pressures on the opposition, first and foremost the Kurds and the HDP. Currently, more than 5,000 members of the HDP are in prison, including our former co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, one current and eight former deputies, 59 elected Kurdish mayors, and many other party administrators and members.


The HDP has not been the only target of emergency rule declared after the abortive coup in July 2016. In this process, more than 150,000 people were purged without any court decision. Over 2,000 NGOs and 200 media outlets, many of them Kurdish, were banned. More than 160 journalists were jailed. About 80,000 people were arrested. Among the imprisoned are, in addition to deputies and mayors, human rights activists, trade unionists, journalists, academics, and many others who have nothing to do with the coup or terrorism. The Erdoğan regime views anybody critical of its policies as a traitor, terrorist or enemy of the state.


It is important to note that both the referendum in April 2017 and presidential elections in June 2018 were held under such violence and repression of emergency rule. Despite amendments to the electoral laws favoring the ruling AKP, the government’s monopoly and censorship over the media, its use of public sources for electoral campaigning, the arrest of politicians, and countless frauds and irregularities, Erdoğan and his allies could barely get 51 and 52 percent in the referendum and presidential elections, respectively. Election observation missions of the OSCE/ODIHR and the PACE have also documented in detail these and other frauds, irregularities and anti-democratic practices of the ruling AKP-MHP coalition.


Although it was lifted in July 2018, all practices of emergency rule continue full force. Arbitrary detentions, arrests and systematic torture are routine practices of the day. There is no freedom of expression and association. Even members of parliament are not allowed to have statements to the public on the streets. We now live under a permanent emergency rule that has no room for dissent. And as the new regime is based on ultra-nationalist populism, we expect the HDP and the Kurds to remain as the main target of state violence.

Indeed, the crackdown on the HDP is intensifying in the run up to the local elections scheduled for March 2019.

The HDP was ruling 102 municipalities when emergency rule was declared. However, the government purged elected mayors of 96 of these 102 municipalities and replaced them with “kayyums,” that is, governors appointed by Turkish government. 59 Kurdish mayors are still in prison. President Erdoğan recently threatened that if the HDP won in the elections, he would appoint “kayyums” again. And almost every day there are tens of detentions and arrests against our members and democratic people who support the HDP. Despite such unlawful pressures, the HDP is committed to reclaiming our municipalities and limiting the power of AKP-MHP by building democratic fronts of resistance in localities across Kurdish provinces and the broader country. Given the new regime’s efforts to
centralize all powers in Erdoğan’s palace in Ankara, we view these elections as an opportunity to defend local democracy and limit the powers of Erdoğan’s palace from the peripheries. Given the circumstances under which we will have the elections, we are aware that this is a very difficult task, but not impossible.
We hereby invite all international institutions and individual persons who are concerned about Turkey’s democratic future to observe local elections on the ground, with a particular focus on Kurdish provinces. The AKP-MHP alliance will surely deploy every form of violence, repression and fraud to win in the elections. We would like the international observers to bear witness to the dignified struggle of local peoples against these unlawful practices before and on the day of elections. Although the Turkish government does not abide by the international law as well as its own Constitution and laws, the presence of international observers may still help to create a better political climate for the elections.
For your questions or further assistance, please contact our Foreign Affairs Department at international@hdp.org.tr or +90 505 0071981 (Mr. Evren Çevik) / +90 535 6495919 (Ms. Berivan Alataş). We would be happy to assist you in any way we can.

Peace and solidarity,

Pervin Buldan & Sezai Temelli HDP Co-chairs

DETAILS:

TRANSPORTATION AND ACCOMODATION:

Due to the economic circumstances, the HDP can’t cover the flight and hotel expenditures. HDP can suggest you suitable hotels.

MEETINGS:

We will be able to organize meetings according to your requests. Domestic transportation will be provided by the HDP during your observing program.

DESTINATION:

Your observation mission will take place according to your preference and the need of our local branches. You can indicate one or more cities for your mission among the electoral regions. If you don’t have any preference, the HDP will propose you the most needed regions.

REGISTRATION FORM FOR OBSERVERS

IN LOCAL ELECTIONS ON 31 MARCH 2019

(FOR DELEGATIONS)

Please fill the form below and send to international@hdp.org.tr

DELEGATION’S NAME:

NAMES AND TITLES OF DELEGATES:

CONTACT PERSON:

TELEPHONE AND E-MAIL ADDRESS OF CONTACT PERSON:

ARRIVAL AIRPORT / DATE / HOUR:

DEPARTURE AIRPORT / DATE / HOUR:

ACCOMODATION (HOTEL NAME – HDP local branches can suggest suitable hotels):

MEETING REQUEST WITH NGOs IN THE REGION OF MISSION:

IF YES, PLEASE BRIEF:

DO YOU NEED ACCOMPANYING STAFF OR INTERPRETER? :

PLEASE INDICATE 3 ELECTION REGIONS IF YOU HAVE PREFERENCES:

DO YOU NEED ANY FURTHER INFORMATION?