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Turkey's Kurdish Party Candidates Barred From Elections; Boycott Threatened

Demonstrators march with yellow Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) flags and display outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) banners during a protest against the High Election Board's decision in Istanbul, April 19, 2011

A decision by Turkey's main election board to disqualify a dozen candidates including seven backed by the main Kurdish political party from June's parliamentary elections has prompted violent protests and the threat of an election boycott.

The Kurdish candidates were disqualified for being legally unfit due to previous criminal convictions for banned political activities. The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) responded by threatening to boycott the elections.

The election board's decision sparked clashes in Istanbul and the Kurdish majority city of Diyarbakir in southeast Turkey between police and rock-throwing protesters infuriated by the ban on the Kurdish candidates. Police responded with tear gas and water cannons.

The BDP is fielding its candidates as independents in order to avoid the threshold rule which requires political parties to obtain at least 10 percent of the vote to be elected to parliament.

Mehmet Ali Sahin, who is president of the National Assembly, and a member of the country's ruling Justice and Development Party (AK), says he hopes the Electoral Commission will review its decision. But the head of the commission said Tuesday the decision is final.