ANKARA -- Respect for the "national will" has been a hallmark motto of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose ascent to Turkey's highest post began more than two decades ago from the mayor's office in Istanbul. Against the many challenges he faced from the secular establishment in the past, Erdogan's resistance always upheld the notion of the national will. Today, however, he is a president accused of trampling down that national will in a campaign targeting elected mayors, which has stripped almost half of Turkey's citizens of the local leaders they elected in 2014.
Since the botched coup in July 2016, the Interior Ministry has dismissed the mayors of 10 provincial centers and close to 100 districts in the Kurdish-majority southeast, including the region's biggest city, Diyarbakir, replacing them with custodians of its own choice.
In September, Erdogan launched an extraordinary purge against mayors from his own Justice and Development Party (AKP). The mayors of six major urban centers, including Ankara and Istanbul, have resigned thus far at Erdogan's behest.
The provinces that have lost their mayors are home to more than 30 million people, meaning that, on the local level, roughly 40% of Turkish citizens are no longer governed by the people they elected.
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