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Governor of earthquake-stricken Hatay province resigns to run in elections

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In a move that has attracted harsh criticism, the governor of Hatay, among the Turkish provinces hardest hit by two powerful earthquakes last month, has resigned from office to run in parliamentary elections scheduled for May 14.

Hatay Governor Rahmi Doğan announced on Twitter on Wednesday that he is stepping down as governor of Hatay “with the permission of state elders” to be able to stand as a candidate from his hometown of Sivas in the elections.

He disabled his tweet for comments. Yet many people voiced disappointment and frustration on Twitter with the governor’s decision, not because of his role in the massive devastation and loss of lives in the earthquake but rather for a seat in parliament.

Turkish journalist Can Dündar, who lives in exile in Germany, tweeted: “Let’s see for how many criminals the new Parliament will be a safe haven. Let’s see whether parliamentary immunity will save them from giving an accounting to the people and the judiciary.”

Bureaucrats in Turkey are supposed to resign from their state posts to engage in politics and run in elections. When they are elected, they gain parliamentary immunity, and thus mostly avoid prosecution, especially if they are from the ranks of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Doğan was among the dozens of state officials who turned a deaf ear to calls for resignation in the aftermath of last month’s tragedy, which claimed the lives of around 50,000 people across 11 provinces in the country’s south and southeast as well as causing massive devastation.

Residents of Hatay complained that the city, where hundreds of buildings were flattened, was left to its fate for days and that many people died under the rubble while waiting to be rescued.

Around 6,000 buildings collapsed in the earthquakes in the city, claiming more than 20,000 lives.

So far, only one governor of an earthquake-stricken province has resigned. The governor of Adıyaman, Mahmut Çuhadar, resigned last week, citing health reasons.

The Turkish government has been accused of poor performance in coordinating search and rescue efforts in the aftermath of the earthquakes, mainly failing to mobilize enough people and a lack of coordination among the teams, which resulted in civilians in some regions trying to pull their loved ones from under the rubble themselves.

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