Alleged election ploy enrages rivals .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;} .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;} ISTANBUL - The AKP is alleged to be making a dangerous investment for votes in the upcoming local elections. New village guards are being hired in eastern and southeastern regions of Anatolia for the first time in years

The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is allegedly recruiting new village guards in eastern and southeastern Anatolia, a move some consider as another attempt to win votes ahead of local elections, daily Taraf reported Friday.

The move has been compared to the recent free distribution of household appliances.

Village guards have been recruited from the local Kurdish population to fight the terrorist PKK organization, since the 1980s. The creation of such a unit has been controversial since its very inception.

In the province of Tunceli, where no new village guards have been recruited since the ’90s, 305 new spots opened in 2008. Around 144 of those openings were filled in Çemişkezek last week. Also, in Pertek, paperwork has been completed for 136 new employees. The other empty spots will be filled as well.

305 openings to be filled

Kamer Genç, an independent deputy from Tunceli, pointed out that just before the elections the government had started to use the staff hired in 2008. "I have learned that 305 more openings are to be filled. The number may rise to 700 or 800."

Genç said unemployment was rampant in Tunceli and the government was trying to generate employment but village guards were not welcome in the area. "They could have created employment for people under a different name. They might have hired them as forestry workers," Genç said, adding that this move showed the government had intensions to do "new things" in Tunceli. "They want to increase the number of people who feel gratitude for getting employment opportunities. Using the staff hired in 2008 is an investment for elections and opportunism," Genç said.

Erdal Ak, provincial chairman of the AKP in Tunceli, said he did not have any information on the matter. "I am new as the provincial chairman. I am the deputy. That is why I do not want to say anything wrong. I do not want to harm our chairperson," he said. Ak said he accepted his position because the AKP was the ruling party and he hoped that he would be able to provide employment for local youth and bring some services to the area.

Murat Polat, provincial chairman of the Democratic Society Party, or DTP, said: "The village guard system is a gang system. It means illegal organizations forming death machines. While this system should be abolished, they are using it as an election investment like the distribution of appliances." Polat said that the aim was to increase the pressure on people, especially those who reside in the countryside. On Jan. 19, 533 village guards were enlisted in Mardin, of which 297 received weapons and are already working. It was reported that 300 new village guards have been hired in Mardin and neighboring provinces and around 700 village guards are to retire.

Also, 600 people from Şırnak’s Beytüşşebap region and its villages have applied to the Provincial Gendarmerie Command to become village guards due to the economic crisis. The Gendarmerie Command has accepted the applications and initiated the necessary procedures.

Officials from the Interior Ministry announced they were filling vacant positions first and additional staff openings were being authorized where needed. The officials said the new recruits were being evaluated based on advice from security organizations and the governorships. The ministry also indicated that village guards earned the right to retirement pensions with a law passed in 2007 and openings for 10,000 village guards were formed in 2008. The village guards in the area reportedly earn between 580 Turkish liras, the minimum wage, to 1,000 liras per month.