Turkish President and leader of the Justice and Development Party,...

Turkish President and leader of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, arrives to vote to a polling station in Istanbul, Turkey, Sunday, March 31, 2024. Turkey is holding local elections on Sunday that will decide who gets to control Istanbul and other key cities. Credit: AP/Khalil Hamra

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s highest electoral authority on Wednesday restored the right of a newly elected mayor from a pro-Kurdish party to hold office, overturning an earlier decision by a lower body that had sparked widespread protests and led to dozens of arrests.

The reversal was another boost for Turkey's opposition following Sunday’s local elections, which dealt a blow to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamic-oriented Justice and Development Party, or AKP, after their wins last year in the presidential and parliamentary elections.

The main opposition party retained its hold of Istanbul and the capital of Ankara and made significant gains elsewhere, while a pro-Kurdish party won several municipalities in Turkey’s mainly-Kurdish regions.

On Tuesday, a regional election authority revoked the mandate of Abdullah Zeydan, a politician from the pro-Kurdish Equality and Democracy Party, or DEM, who had won the race for mayor in the eastern city of Van and replaced him by his runner-up, a candidate from Erdogan’s ruling party.

The authority cited a last-minute court decision that ruled that Zeydan, who spent time in prison, was not qualified to run for office. Zeydan had won 55% of the votes in Sunday's balloting while Abdulahat Arvas, of Erdogan’s AKP, garnered 27%.

That decision triggered protests in Van and other cities. Police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse demonstrators and made several arrests. In Istanbul, police also broke up a demonstration by dozens of lawyers who marched to a courthouse to denounce the decision.

The High Electoral Board on Wednesday considered an appeal by DEM and ruled to reinstate Zeydan, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. The decision was taken by a majority of the board’s members, the agency said.

Over the past years, Erdogan’s government had removed elected pro-Kurdish mayors from office for alleged links to Kurdish militants and replaced them with state-appointed trustees.

The weekend balloting was mostly peaceful but clashes erupted Tuesday in the mostly-Kurdish town of Pervari between supporters of a ruling party politician who won the vote there and his rival, who came in second. One person was killed and four others were wounded in the violence.

Authorities arrested six people and imposed a temporary curfew to restore calm, the regional governor's office said.

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