Sırrı Süreyya Önder set to throw hat in ring for Istanbul mayor’s post
Sırrı Süreyya Önder, a former Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputy who resigned from the party to join the freshly formed umbrella party HDP, has been in the ascendant in the eyes of the public, particularly leftist segments, since the Gezi Park resistance. DHA photoPeople’s Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder has ended weeks of speculation, announcing his candidacy for his party’s nomination for the Istanbul mayoralty in upcoming local elections.
“I’m a nominee to be a candidate for Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality,” Önder said during an interview broadcasted on CNNTürk Nov. 17. “We will clarify the candidacy criteria, the local government approach and nominations by getting together with our party, forums, the Gezi Platform and leftist components.”
With Önder set to throw his hat into the ring, the race to become Istanbul’s mayor in March 2014 appears likely to be one of the most hotly contested races in years. In addition to Justice and Development Party (AKP) incumbent Kadir Topbaş, Şişli Mayor Mustafa Sarıgül is also likely to run for the office.
Sarıgül, who has held the coveted Şişli municipal seat for three consecutive terms since 1999, recently rejoined the Republican People’s Party (CHP) ranks in the hopes of becoming the party’s nominee for the hot seat. However, as CHP deputy leader Gürsel Tekin, one of the most prominent figures in the party, has also announced his willingness to run for the mayoralty, the party still has not declared its final decision.
Önder, a former Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputy who resigned from the party to join the freshly formed umbrella party HDP, has been in the ascendant in the eyes of the public, particularly leftist segments, since the Gezi Park resistance.
The lawmaker, who is also a moviemaker and social activist, was one of the deputies most involved in the protests, having personally stopped bulldozers from cutting down trees during the initial demonstrations in Gezi Park before they spread across the country.
His public popularity led some politicians and columnists to strongly suggest the formation of an alliance between the CHP and BDP in western provinces to defeat the AKP.
But Önder reiterated his strict objection to the idea during the Nov. 17 interview, saying such an understanding of politics had come to an end.
“We are ambitious about this; we will live and see. When our name is mentioned, the statistics went upside down. We have drawn lessons from Gezi, and we are acting upon this,” he said, targeting his potential rival Sarıgül, who became the target of harsh criticism for remaining largely passive during the Gezi protests.
“There is no space left to breathe in Şişli because of buildings. You cannot force a leftist to do this even with a gun. We can discuss after he studies social democratic theory, who invented it and when his body was buried,” Önder also said, criticizing Sarıgül’s claim to be the first social democratic mayor in the city.
“If he can discuss with me for 15 minutes without using the words ‘Rabbim’ [My God], ‘Bismillah’ [In the name of God] and ‘Atatürk’ I will drop out of the race,” he said, sarcastically mocking Sargül’s statements.
Despite ruling out any collaboration with the CHP, he said his party was still open to cooperation with other potential segments.
“It will be transparent and principal. We can collaborate with everyone who hasn’t committed a crime against the city or a humanitarian crime,” he said.