POLITICAL TURMOIL FOLLOWS ELECTION BAN IN TURKEY
Rage against the election ban on 12 independent candidates poured out into the streets of Istanbul, Diyabakır, Van and Hakkari on Tuesday, drawing a harsh response from police.
Thousands of people gathered at Istanbul's Taksim Square to stage a sit-in strike and then marched to the Aksaray district, where clashes with police broke out. Some protesters who tried to throw stones at police in Taksim were stopped by others, but the situation became more heated in Aksaray.
Stones were thrown at police and nearby buildings, and Molotov cocktails were tossed at some stores. Many injuries were reported, and hundreds of people were affected by tear gas. Protesters who remained at the scene after the clashes began held another sit-up strike at a "civil disobedience tent" erected in Aksaray by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP. Police surrounded the strikers and kept newcomers from joining them.
The protest was sparked after the Supreme Election Board, or YSK, issued a decision late Monday disqualifying 12 candidates from the June 12 elections, based on past convictions and legal technicalities. Among the candidates were seven backed by the BDP.
The demonstration at Taksim was attended by BDP deputies Sabahat Tuncel and Ufuk Uras alongside candidates Levent Tüzel, Sırrı Süreyya Önder and Mustafa Avcı. Other parties from the Labor, Freedom and Democracy Bloc, in which the BDP is the leading party, and representatives of several nongovernmental organizations were also represented.
Riots in southeastern Turkey:
Clashes meanwhile broke out in Diyarbakır in front of the courthouse where a group had gathered to protest the ongoing trial of the Kurdish Communities Union, or KCK, the alleged urban wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. Many people were wounded during the clashes and transferred to hospitals. A 15-year-old protester, Remzi Çalı, was shot and wounded by the police, according to the pro-Kurdish Firat News Agency, which is sympathetic to the BDP and often carries announcements from the PKK.
Many buildings and vehicles were damaged in the conflict, including the municipality building. The police confiscated a backpack full of Molotov cocktails, the Anatolia news agency reported.
Stores were shuttered in protest of the YSK decision in both the eastern province of Van and in Hakkari's Yüksekova district. Protesters who staged a sit-in at an intersection were gassed by the police, causing more clashes to erupt.
BDP-led protests in the streets of Van also drew police intervention, causing additional clashes between the two parties. Protesters threw stones and Molotov cocktails at police, who responded with tear gas and pressurized water. Gendarmerie forces were sent to the city as the conflict spread. Deputy candidate Aysel Tuğluk and Van Mayor Bekir Kaya were allegedly battered by the police, according to local news sources.
Similar clashes and injuries were also reported Tuesday in Mersin province and Şırnak's Cizre district. Incidents in all mentioned cities were ongoing as the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review went to press.
SIGNAL FOR RETURN FROM VETO
The head of Turkey's Supreme Board of Election (YSK) opened the door slightly for the independent applicants whose candidacies were cancelled. "If we receive new documents, we will assess them," the head official said.
In the meantime, Ankara is trying to find a way to get over the veto crisis. Republican People's Party (CHP) chairperson Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu called on the parliament to convene to discuss the matter, while Parliament Speaker Mehmet Ali Şahin criticized the YSK. In the afternoon, the YSK's head, Ali Em, said, "If candidates bring us the court decisions lifting the restriction order about them, we will assess these documents. There is still time for reclaims".
THERE IS A BAN, BUT THERE IS NO LAW
The Supreme Board of Election (YSK) broke the law while it cancelled the candidacy of 12 independent applicants 7 of whom were supported by Peace & Democracy Party (BDP). With such a decision, the board disregarded the reform on Turkish Criminal Code (TCK), as well as the law's Article 53 which said "restriction ends with execution." Due to reactions, a glimmer of hope rose yesterday evening. The board said it would make a reassessment if it received the necessary documents.
CHP CHIEF CALLS FOR EMERGENCY SESSION OF TURKISH PARLIAMENT
The head of the main opposition called Tuesday for Parliament to convene in an extraordinary session to address issues raised by a decision to ban 12 independent candidate deputies from participating in the June elections.
The Republican People's Party, or CHP, is ready to "participate in any way it can" to find a solution, party chief Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, calling for other parties' support, told journalists Tuesday, the daily Hürriyet reported on its website.
Kılıçdaroğlu suggested Parliament convene in an extraordinary session to amend the Constitution and the election law and reduce the election threshold, if necessary.
Turkey's Supreme Election Board, or YSK, on Monday barred a total of 12 independent deputy candidates from entering the June 12 general election. Seven of the candidates were supported by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP.
Protests were held in several cities in Turkey in response to the board's decision, and the BDP announced Monday that it was pondering whether to withdraw from the elections.
The BDP is supporting independent candidates in order to overcome the 10% election threshold for a party to be represented in Parliament.
The Turkish Parliament closed last week and is not set to open again until after the election of new deputies following the June vote.
US ARMENIANS GEAR UP "GENOCIDE" CAMPAIGN
US Armenians are preparing to hold a protest against President Barack Obama in Los Angeles to accuse him of breaking his pre-election pledges to Armenians, and rally their groups and congressional supporters, once again, to back a campaign to have the deaths of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 labeled a "genocide" in the US
U.S. Armenians have sped up a campaign to convince the U.S. president to declare the events of 1915 as "genocide" in the run-up to April 24, "Armenian Remembrance Day" in the United States.
Members of the community are preparing to hold a protest against President Barack Obama in Los Angeles on Thursday for allegedly breaking pre-election pledges in 2008 to Armenians and Armenian groups to recognize their genocide claims. The group's congressional supporters are hoping that the president finally recognizes the "Armenian genocide" this time around.
"On Thursday, April 21 at 3 p.m, Armenian-Americans, from throughout southern California and across the American and Armenian political spectrums, will join together for a public protest calling upon President Obama to honor his broken campaign pledge to recognize the Armenian genocide," the lobby group the Armenian National Committee of America, or ANCA, said Tuesday.
"The demonstration, organized by the Armenian Genocide Community Task Force, will be held outside the president's first major fundraiser for next year's presidential election in southern California," ANCA said.
"California's Armenian American community is eager to see President Obama in Los Angeles," said ANCA Western Region Chairman Andrew Kzirian. "With the president's 2012 re-election effort now under way, the Armenian-American community will remind him of the profound moral and serious geopolitical costs of his decision to break his promise to clearly and unequivocally recognize the Armenian genocide."
Armenians have urged many U.S. presidents and Congress members to officially recognize the World War I-era deaths of their kinsmen in the Ottoman Empire as "genocide," but their efforts have so far been unsuccessful. Turkey has warned that any formal U.S. recognition of genocide will worsen bilateral ties with the United States in a major and lasting way.
Around two dozen members of Congress met at the Senate on April 14 to commemorate what they see as the "Armenian genocide," ANCA said.
Pro-Armenian Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, urged Obama to recognize the "Armenian genocide."
"I expect my president, whom I have supported, to finally come through and stand up for what is right..., stand up as U.S. president today to say... there was an Armenian genocide," Menendez said.
"Once we complete the work of recognition of the Armenian genocide, we must quickly move to the subject of reparations, which I think is also important as we move forward," said David Cicillini, a Democratic representative from Rhode Island, according to ANCA.
The Armenian Assembly of America, or AAA, the second largest U.S. Armenian group after ANCA, also joined the call for the claims to be recognized.
"We strongly urge President Barack Obama to fulfill his campaign promise and expand upon his statement last year, wherein he used the Armenian term – 'metz yeghern' – to describe the Armenian genocide, and for this year, use the proper English term: Armenian genocide," the AAA said in a written statement.
But one Washington-based analyst familiar with the matter and speaking on condition of anonymity, said Obama was again unlikely to describe the Armenian deaths as "genocide."
U.S. presidents traditionally release press statements every April 24, denouncing the Armenian killings. But they also traditionally decline to classify the deaths as "genocide."
Pro-Armenian legislators came close to winning a congressional endorsement of the genocide claims last December, shortly before the previous Congress expired, when they intensified their efforts for a floor vote in the House of Representatives on a "genocide" bill, which passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee last March.
But under strong behind-the-scene pressure by the Obama administration, the bill did not come to a floor vote.