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CoE says Turkey not allowing elected mayors to take office undermines rule of law

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Secretary-General of the Council of Europe (CoE) Thorbjørn Jagland has written a letter to the head of Turkey’s election authority telling him that prevention of democratically elected mayors from taking office raises questions about the rule of law in Turkey.

Jagland sent his letter to Sadi Güven, the president of Turkey’s Supreme Election Board (YSK), which in a controversial move last week announced that candidates who were elected as mayors in local elections held on March 31 in Turkey would not be allowed to take office if they had been removed from state jobs under government decrees.

According to the unofficial results of the elections, purge victims were elected as mayors in many districts, but they have not been given the mandate to govern by the district election boards due to the fact that they were removed from their public jobs by the government. Some district election boards asked the YSK what steps they should take regarding these elected individuals.

In response the YSK announced last Wednesday that the mayors who were removed from public jobs by government decrees should not be allowed to serve in office. The board said the candidates who received the highest number of votes after the purge victims should be given the mandate.

In his letter, Jagland said: “It is however our understanding that all of these candidatures had been checked and validated before the election by various authorities, including the YSK. Therefore the YSK’s decision to bar the elected candidates from assuming office raises questions concerning rule of law standards.”

Jagland also said the YSK’s decision to allow the candidates who came in second in the elections to assume office “goes against the general principles of democracy.”

“Legal certainty and predictability of law are essential with regard to electoral legislation. The aim of such legislation in a democracy is to ensure that the will of the people is respected and not thwarted,” said Jagland.

The Turkish government removed from their civil servant jobs more than 150,000 people on terrorism or coup charges in the aftermath of a coup attempt on July 15, 2016. These people were fired thanks to government decrees during a state of emergency that lasted for two years and granted extraordinary powers to the government.

The YSK decision attracted criticism from the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), some of whose elected mayors are purge victims.

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