Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s aide İbrahim Kalın has denied reports about government plans to remove from office the İstanbul and Ankara mayors, who are both from the main opposition party, Turkish media reports said on Wednesday.
In a controversial move on Monday, the Turkish Interior Ministry removed the mayors of Mardin, Van and Diyarbakır in southeastern Turkey, claiming they have links to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The mayors were elected from the ranks of the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the March 31 local elections.
Following the ministry’s move, it has been speculated that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government might also remove the mayors of İstanbul and Ankara.
“There is no such thing on our agenda right now concerning İstanbul and Ankara,” Kalın told reporters following a Cabinet meeting at the presidential palace on Wednesday evening.
Regarding the removal of the three mayors in southeastern Turkey from office, he said the necessary steps had been taken regarding people who support terrorism.
“Being elected does not render one innocent,” he added.
Erdoğan warned before the local elections that his government would not hesitate to replace mayors from the HDP if they were deemed to be linked to the PKK. The HDP has faced a harsh crackdown since it won enough votes to enter parliament in 2015. Since then, the government has jailed hundreds of Kurdish politicians and seized some 100 municipalities in the Southeast.
The HDP also angered the AKP for helping Turkey’s main opposition party Republican People’s Party (CHP) win mayoral races in İstanbul and Ankara, dealing a blow to Erdoğan’s AKP.