THE CORRIDOR - Surprises in Şanlıurfa

THE CORRIDOR - Surprises in Şanlıurfa

I have observed six elections since 1991, but the one coming on June 12 is perhaps the most unexciting campaign of them all. A similar parliamentary picture, more or less, and a similar government structure are expected and that is the reason why there is little excitement. As such, it seems we will have to seek a higher dose of excitement in the local races; one such competition is being thrown up by the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa.

The candidates in the province, which is well-known for its conservative tribes, feudal social structure and surprising election results, are currently engaged in a cut-throat race. If we include the independent candidates from the tribes that have a high possibility of being elected with the top party candidates, the election race in the southeastern province has turned out to be one of the fiercest in the country.

This time, the province will send 12 deputies to Parliament, one more than the last general elections. Four years ago, nine of the winners were from the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP. İbrahim Binici, backed by the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, or DTP, and Seyit Eyyüboğlu, an independent tribal candidate, won the other two seats.

The tribal candidates for the AKP, CHP and MHP are strong, while the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, relies on its strong grassroots. In addition, there are 11 independent candidates, but with singer and favorite son İbrahim Tatlıses, who is recovering from an assassination attempt in March, withdrawing from the race, this number has dropped to 10 although there still a number of tribal independent candidates running with a chance of victory.

One of the most influential families in the region, the Cevheris, is being represented by Mahmut Cevheri as an independent. The Cevheris are famous for sending deputies to Parliament every term. The Bucak tribe, which provides many village guards in the region and is known for its conservatism and pro-state stance, could win with Ahmet Ersin Bucak, the older brother of former True Path Party, or DYP, Şanlıurfa Deputy Sedak Bucak.

From the İzol tribe is Zülfikar İzol, who especially wants to do well after failing to get the nod from the AKP to become a candidate. In addition, people from strong families in the region, such as Mehmet Dilan, Lütfü Doğru and Fatih Şıhanlıoğlu, are also running as independent deputy candidates.

The AKP nominated State Minister Faruk Çelik in the first row. Eyyüboğlu, the former tribal independent, as well as Mehmet Kasım Gülpınar, Mehmet Akyürek and Zeynep Armağan Uslu, who was an Istanbul deputy in the previous term, are also on the electoral list.

The Republican People's Party, or CHP, meanwhile, has nominated a number of controversial names in the province. For instance, CHP Şanlıurfa provincial head Vedat Melik is a member of one of the biggest tribes in the area, but was not nominated by his party. Instead, Ferhat Karataş ranked first and Süleyman Gök came second. Interestingly, Karataş is an opponent of the tribal order and does not hesitate to criticize tribal structure. The CHP could lose the race in Şanlıurfa because it failed to nominate Melik and it would be a huge surprise if the anti-tribal Karataş were to be elected.

The BDP, of course, is joining the race with their own “independent” candidates; Şanlıurfa Deputy İbrahim Binici and İbrahim Ayhan are the most likely to be elected.

The Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, on the other hand, nominated the incumbent Muzaffer Çakmaklı, a member of the Çakmak tribe and a likely winner.

İbrahim Özyavuz was a former mayor and husband of Çağla Özyavuz, a Şanlıurfa deputy that resigned from the AKP. Öyavuz is one of the few Arab candidates in the country and could win a second seat for the MHP in the area, causing a big surprise.

I talked to many people who know the region very well, and all expect a myriad of surprises in Şanlıurfa.

It seems, however, that the AKP could win seven seats, the BDP could take home two, the CHP and MHP might win one each, while one independent could also win.

But there is also an outside chance that the AKP might win only five seats, with the BDP and MHP also winning two. The other three seats, meanwhile, could go in such a situation to three tribal independents, leaving the CHP shut out.

Şanlıurfa is a city that loves surprises.

Before the 2009 local elections, some Şanlıurfa deputies from the AKP told Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, “Whoever you nominate, they will be elected,” and prevented the candidacy of Ahmet Eşref Fakıbaba. However, the people reacted against Erdoğan’s Şanlıurfa meeting, delivering a huge surprise to the party by voting in Fakıbaba, who ran as an independent, rather than the AKP’s mayoral candidate