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Last Updated: Monday, 29 September, 2003, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
Turkish election called into question
Dehap supporters
Dehap's votes at the election could now be cancelled
Turkey's highest appeals court has upheld jail sentences for electoral fraud against four former leaders of a pro-Kurdish party, raising the prospect of early elections.

The four were sentenced to 23 months in prison each by a court in June for tampering with documents ahead of the vote on 3 November last year.

The ruling means that the country's election board could cancel two million votes won by the party in the election.

Correspondents say the elections may be cancelled altogether and a new vote called as early as next April.

Though Dehap failed to cross the 10% threshold to win seats, the cancellation of its votes could lead to a change in the number of seats allocated to other parties.

Dehap was formed before the last election, partly in an attempt to pre-empt a ban on another pro-Kurdish party, Hadep, which was banned in March.

Hadep was accused of aiding the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a link which it denies, and prosecutors have also called for a ban on Dehap.

More than 30,000 people were killed over a 15-year period as the PKK fought for Kurdish autonomy.

Balance changed

Turkish law requires that a party needs to have offices in at least 41 of the country's 81 provinces at least six months before an election to be able to stand.

ELECTION RESULT
AK - 34.2% (363 seats)
CHP - 19.3% (178 seats)
True Path - 9.5% (0 seats)
The appeal court ruled that Dehap only had 27 such offices instead of 63 as it had claimed.

The party can still re-apply to the court to try to overturn the ruling, but the four will still have to begin their jail sentences.

Dehap is popular in the mainly Kurdish south-east, and urban centres with many Kurdish migrants.

But it polled only 6.2% - and with 12 million Kurds out of a population of just over 70 million, correspondents say it is perhaps surprising that Dehap failed to gain any seats.

Only two parties gained more than 10% of the vote - the now ruling Islamic-based Justice and Development (AK) Party and the opposition centre-left Republican People's Party (CHP).

But if Dehap's votes are cancelled, the 10% threshold would in effect be lowered, giving around 60 seats to the centre-right True Path Party, which originally won 9.5%, and substantially reducing the AK's majority.


SEE ALSO:
Turkey frees Kurd leaders
23 Sep 03  |  Europe
Turkey detains Kurd leaders
22 Sep 03  |  Europe
Turkish elections: Key parties
04 Nov 02  |  Europe
Kurdish rebels abandon truce
02 Sep 03  |  Europe
Country profile: Turkey
16 Jul 03  |  Country profiles


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