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Local Elections In Hatay: A Timeline of the Controversy

A lot of controversy unraveled in Hatay before, during, and after the local elections which took place on March 31st, 2024. The candidates for CHP (Republican People’s Party) and AK Parti (Justice and Development Party), Lütfü Savaş and Mehmet Öntürk respectively, went neck and neck, and after Mehmet Öntürk won, CHP wanted a reelection. Their request was denied, but CHP doesn’t seem to have given up on Hatay. The chaotic timeline of Hatay’s election journey has been spread out over the course of 3 months, and it all began when CHP announced Lütfü Savaş as their mayoral candidate.

January 11th: CHP announces Lütfü Savaş as their candidate for Mayor

Lütfü Savaş, who used to be the former mayor of Hatay, was once again announced to be CHP’s candidate. Savaş was mayor during the earthquakes of 6 February 2023, and the manner in which he handled the situation was heavily criticized by the citizens of Hatay. Many believed that he wasn’t involved enough in the situation, and that he didn’t take the necessary actions to reduce the people’s suffering. Hence, the public wasn’t satisfied with him being mayor, and there were a lot of negative reactions to him being a candidate again. He was met with protests in almost all the places he visited, and people openly expressed dissatisfaction with his candidacy. Despite all the protest, the leader of CHP, Özgür Özel, said that CHP wouldn’t replace Lütfü Savaş as mayoral candidate due to a lack of any better option.

March 31st: CHP and AK Parti are almost tied in the election, but AK Parti wins

On the day of the election, Lütfü Savaş and AK Parti candidate Mehmet Öntürk were neck and neck until Mehmet Öntürk ended up winning with a difference of 0.43%, which meant a difference of around 2500 votes. The results went back and forth as the ballots were being opened, but in the end it was announced that AK Parti had won in Hatay. Controversy followed as CHP rejected these results.

April 7th: CHP’s council makes a request for a reelection to YSK (Supreme Election Council)

CHP refused to accept these results, and on April 7th, their election council consisting of high-ranked and respected members went to YSK to request an appeal. It was also revealed that CHP delivered an 80 page letter to YSK explaining the need for a reelection. Lüftü Savaş made a public statement claiming that there were 3289 votes by people who were reported to be dead at the time of the election. The difference between the votes for Lütfü Savaş and Mehmet Öntürk was reportedly around 2500, less than the number of voters who were dead. Lütfü Savaş claimed that this was cause for unfair results. In addition, he also added that the 38.903 votes that weren’t counted due to being reported as invalid didn’t have actual reasoning for being invalid. Both of these claims, along with some other concerns surrounding uncounted or invalid ballots were addressed in the letter which was previously sent to YSK. Although the process of appeals was still ongoing, YSK had handed a mandate to Mehmet Öntürk. CHP criticized this decision, and declared it wasn’t acceptable for them.

April 8th-April 10th: YSK rejects CHP’s request, CHP refuses to back down

After CHP’s request for a reelection in Hatay in front of the YSK council, YSK decided that a reelection wasn’t necessary in Hatay. CHP’s request was hence denied. However, Özgür Özel wasn’t satisfied with this decision and made a declaration on April 10th, stating that he was not going to quit trying until a new election was held in Hatay. He said that the situation in Hatay was unlawful, and that another letter discussing the “illegal” actions was in preparation.

It is obvious that even though their request was denied, CHP was not going to back down in their fight to win over Hatay. While only time will tell what is going to happen in Hatay, the people’s voices are surely going to be heard, and the situation is currectly open to change.



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