Turkish Kurds welcome poll decision

Country's High Election Board reverses move to ban Kurdish politicians following violent protests in country's southeast.

    Clashes erupted after an initial decision to ban Kurdish candidates from parliamentary polls [Reuters]

    Turkey's main election body has reversed a decision that had barred several Kurdish candidates from running in a parliamentary vote in June.

    The High Election Board voted unanimously on Thursday to allow six of seven candidates, backed by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, to run for parliament in June 12 elections. The board accepted arguments that the six candidates were not a threat to the public if they ran for office.

    The board's initial decision to bar the candidates from the ballots sparked outrage in the mainly Kurdish southeast, where protesters attacked banks and police with firebombs and stones.

    A demonstrator was fatally shot in the chest on Wednesday and three protesters were wounded during clashes with police in the southeastern town of Bismil.

    Thousands of people turned up for his funeral on Thursday as prosecutors launched an investigation into the killing. Kurdish politicians have accused the police of firing at protesters.

    Dozens of demonstrators and police officers also have been injured in clashes across the region, including two people wounded by gunfire.

    The board had barred a total of 12 candidates. But it said on Thursday that eight of them were eligible to run for parliament.

    It rejected two others, including a Kurdish one. Two remaining candidates are still waiting to hear from the board.

    Decision welcomed

    Kurdish politicians welcomed the decision but regretted the loss of life and injuries in the southeast.

    "The decision has been tainted with blood," Sirri Sakik, a Kurdish legislator, told local television.

    "The result is a benefit to democracy but the price has been heavy."

    Aysel Tugluk, another Kurdish legislator, said: "A mistake has been undone.

    "This correction will naturally ease off the tension in the public. If this correction had not been made, more violence was sure to follow, and legitimacy of the elections would be hindered."

    Independent candidates hope to increase the number of Kurdish-held seats in parliament as Turkey's leading pro-Kurdish political movement - the Peace and Democracy Party - is likely to benefit from the return of candidates it supports to the race.

    In Turkey, a political party must win at least 10 per cent of the overall vote in an election to win seats in parliament.

    No Kurdish party has ever been able to do that. The party has 20 legislators - all elected as independents in 2007 elections - in the 550-seat parliament.

    Leyla Zana, a prominent Kurdish activist and former legislator who spent a decade in prison convicted of links to Kurdish rebels, is among the candidates approved by the board.

    She has denied any ties to rebels.

    She was elected to parliament in 1991 but caused outrage among Turks when she added a few words in Kurdish while taking the oath for office.

    At the time, the use of Kurdish language was barred in official functions, a rule which has since been revised.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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