Istanbul mayor hopeful Sarıgül kicks off campaign

Istanbul mayor hopeful Sarıgül kicks off campaign

Istanbul mayor hopeful Sarıgül kicks off campaign

Sarıgül sets free a dove in front of the Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) provincial headquarters in Istanbul. AA photo

Şişli Mayor Mustafa Sarıgül has announced the launching of his local election campaign with an address in front of the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) provincial headquarters in Istanbul. 

After long-running speculation, Sarıgül, who hopes to dethrone the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) incumbent Mayor Kadir Topbaş from the highly prestigious Istanbul Municipal seat in the forthcoming March 30, 2014 elections, has finally put forward his name as a candidate.

Sarıgül, who has held the coveted Şişli municipal seat for three consecutive terms since 1999, said he would start his campaign on Nov. 20 with visits to two Istanbul districts, Esenler and Bağcılar, known as AKP strongholds. 

“On Wednesday, we will say ‘Bismillah!’ [in the name of God] in Esenler and Bağcılar,” he said. 

CHP’s decision awaited

However, Sarıgül has to wait for the CHP to decide on its Istanbul candidate, as the party’s deputy chair, Gürsel Tekin, is also expected to put himself forward as a candidate. Without naming any names, Sarıgül welcomed the inner-party competition. “A wealth of candidates is a good sign of democracy,” he said. 

Sarıgül also made several religious remarks in his speech, as well as references to the CHP’s roots. 
“This is the voice of my God rising from here. Then it’s the voice of [former prime ministers and CHP leaders] Bülent Ecevit, İsmet İnönü, and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,” he said. 

The Şişli mayor also touched on the national agenda, criticizing a government plan that seeks to regulate “dershanes,” the private institutions that prepare students for university entrance exams. 

“It is not that our citizens love to pay money. Those courses are there because of the lack of education … I don’t think it’s right to cut services for political reasons,” Sarıgül said. The plan has been strongly criticized by the community of Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, as hundreds of dershanes across Turkey are known for links to their movement.

Sarıgül also criticized the meeting between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani in Diyarbakır over the weekend.

“I am telling to the government in Ankara: Leave those games exploiting our Kurdish citizens before the elections. Barzani has been there for years. You have been there for 13 years. You welcome Barzani four months before the elections. Nobody will buy it,” he said.