Local elections far from local: Turkish Deputy PM

Photo: Local elections far from local: Turkish Deputy PM / Turkey

The upcoming local elections's results will affect both the presidential and general elections, Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said in a live program aired on NTV Thursday Anadolu Agency reported.

Atalay sent his condolences to Berkin Elvan's family, the 15-year-old injured during Gezi Park protests and whose death Wednesday triggered mass protests that gripped the country in the last two days.

Berkin Elvan reportedly was going to buy bread when he was hit by a gas canister in the head during a police crackdown against Gezi protests in Istanbul, June 2013. He died Tuesday after staying 269 days in coma, and shrinking from 45 kilos to 16 kilos. His death triggered mass protests in major cities with occasional outbursts of violence partly due to the police crackdown.

Atalay noted the presence of multiple elements including banners of terrorist organizations, and political parties at Elvan's funeral, and warned against 'exploiting' a young teen's death in order to create an unsafe environment ahead of the elections.

"It is impossible to approve of such anti-government behavior under the pretense of protesting against a young boy's death," the deputy PM said referring to the Wednesday attack on the AK Party election coordination centre.

Atalay said that both the administrative and judicial investigations into Elvan's death to identify the police officer who fired the gas canister that hit him in the head, and eventually caused his death, are ongoing.

"Which government wants the loss of a young life? This issue is being dealt with the upmost sensitivity. Everybody can be assured of that. Whether it was an accident or done on purpose, we must find who was responsible. This is very important to us," he stressed.

Atalay asserted that Turkey is going through a very important process ahead of the upcoming local elections on March 30, which he said meant much more than just a local election; the outcome of which is going to affect both the presidential and general elections.

He also said that that there is a coalition working against the Justice and Development (AK) Party, and claimed that the so-called "parallel structure" is also a part of this coalition, which is working to ensure that people vote for the second strongest party (after AK Party) in their respective districts, regardless of what party it may be.

"You can consider this election as a referendum of some sort. This is how we actually approach it ourselves. We are executing an election campaign that is highly comprehensive and serious," he said.

No case except of reasonable detention period

All suspects under arrest should be released after serving their '5 year reasonable detention period' - that is, the period up till final conviction - regardless of the crime they allegedly committed, according to Turkish Deputy PM Bulent Arinc Thursday.

Arinc was referring to many high profile defendants released in the last week after a new law, which obliges courts to release people whose convictions were not finalized in five years, took effect.

Referring to last week's release of several high profile generals tried in the coup-plotting cases of Ergenekon, Arinc said, "it is a correct decision and in line with universal judicial principles."

Speaking to journalists in south eastern province of Diyarbakir, Arinc said all communities should be treated equally.

When asked why pro-Kurdish KCK (Kurdistan Communities Union) suspects' application to be released was rejected, Arinc said "no case should be held exceptional for the reasonable detention period. If the judiciary apply a double standard to different cases then it is unfair. In universal law, detention is exceptional while release in a pending trial is a principle," said Arinc.

Concerning the deaths Wednesday that followed the funeral of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan, who was wounded during Gezi Park protest, Arinc said:

"Some groups exploited the funeral and resorted to violence in Istanbul and many other cities. They caused two other deaths, a policeman in eastern city of Tunceli and a 22 years old man in Istanbul. This is more upsetting than the death of the boy," said Arinc.

Arinc also said that the protesters burned more than 20 election offices of his Justice and Development (AK) Party.

"Those resorting to violence indeed are after pushing the country into chaos, people should be well aware of it," added Deputy PM Arinc.

Arinc also touched upon the solution process of Kurdish issue and said that the recent events starting with the December 17 anti-graft operations were aimed at weaking the government and indirectly threatening the solution process.

"Based on my 40 year political career, I assure you that a weak government would not be able to proceed with such a senstive process. All efforts in last thirty years to resolve the Kurdish issue have been blocked by some groups in Turkey becuase the government were not able to resist these groups," added Arinc.

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