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Turkish candidate stirs debate in Greek polls

ATHENS - Hürriyet Daily News | 9/22/2009 12:00:00 AM | CHRIS LOUTRADIS

As the general election fever heats up in Greece with a neck-to-neck race between the ruling party and the main opposition, campaigns for candidates of Turkish origin are also gathering pace.

As the general election fever heats up in Greece with a neck-to-neck race between the ruling party and the main opposition, campaigns for candidates of Turkish origin are also gathering pace. At least 14 Turks were nominated, mainly in Rhodope and Xanthi.

But the interesting fact is not in the number of the candidates. A fierce debate has focused on a single name: Aysel Zeybek.

A 30-year-old journalist from Xanthi and one of the youngest candidates in the Oct. 4 elections, Zeybek has sparked an intense discussion in the Greek media and political scene when she said she felt mainly Turkish and was proud of it only hours after her nomination in the ranks of the ruling New Democracy Party, or NDP.

Zeybek became a well-known political figure in Western Thrace after she won a long-standing citizenship case in the European Court of Human Rights against the Greek government. Authorities revoked her citizenship in 1997 because of a visit to Istanbul. After a long judicial struggle, Zeybek re-secured her Greek citizenship in 2001.

Now, Zeybek is going one step forward and demanding that the differences between the Greek government and the Turkish minority be solved not as an internal political case but as a matter of Greek-Turkish relations.

“My main goal is to voice the problems of minorities in the parliament. I also sought to help Turks, who lost their citizenship without their will,” Zeybek said after her nomination.

The NDP candidate also stated that the minority issue in Greece is also a vital matter for Turkey. “Apart from the minority issue, there are plenty of problems that are waiting to be solved. After my election to the parliament, I will deal with these chronic problems, including educational problems, religious freedom, economic and identity problems.”

Zeybek also said she has full support of the governing NDP, however observers and experts said this is not the case. They argue that Zeybek’s arguments pose a dangerous threat to the NDP’s political electoral basis, which is unsupportive of these political views, and added that NDP voters may slide to more nationalist camps, such as ultra-nationalist LAOS party.

Zeybek’s stance will continue to dominate the election discourse, experts say, adding that the New Democracy will have to react and the nature of react will make her story even more interesting.

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