News / Middle East

    Turkish Mayoral Candidate Seeks to Break Political Mold

    FILE - Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) mayoral candidate Mustafa Sarigul (C) speaks during a protest against Turkey's ruling AK Party and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul.
    FILE - Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) mayoral candidate Mustafa Sarigul (C) speaks during a protest against Turkey's ruling AK Party and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul.
    Dorian Jones
    Turkey is in the midst of one of it most important and bitterly contested election campaigns in decades. Nowhere is the campaign more intense than in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city and home to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.  Istanbul has been the bastion of the ruling AK Party for two decades, but that rule is now under threat from a candidate for city mayor who is as controversial and mold-breaking as the prime minister himself.
     
    Addressing a crowd of thousands in one of Istanbul’s poor neighborhoods, Mustafa Sarigul of the center-left Republican People’s Party, or CHP, promised social justice and an end to what he calls the divisive politics of the AK Party, which has ruled Istanbul for 20 years.
     
    Taking a break from the campaign trail, 58-year-old Sarigul sweeps into his office and offers an iron handshake. Pausing for a moment, he acknowledges he shares something important with the man he sees as his chief rival -- Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
     
    “There are only two people in Turkish politics who have come from nothing and risen to the top,” he said: “me and prime minister. My father was a worker, was an apartment superintendent. I am coming from a working class background and I’ve been in politics since I was 15. I worked at every level of politics,” he continued.
     
    Sarigul said he has been fighting for social equality since he was a young school boy.
     
    “Coming from a poor family, we poor children were always placed at the back of the classroom,” he said. “I started thinking: why I am sitting in the back row while the rich ones enjoy the front rows. I started organizing the kids in the back rows and always challenged those in the front.”
     
    Sarigul said Turkish politics, like the wider society, is still dominated by class -- even, he acknowledges, within his own party.
     
    Kadri Gursel of the Turkish newspaper Milliyet and the Al Monitor website said Sarigul’s candidacy is groundbreaking for the opposition CHP.
     
    "Mr. Sarigul is not a typical CHP candidate; he has a capacity to reach out to almost every sector of the society in Istanbul. His campaign is not based on polarizing policies and he is not alienating people on ideological ground[s]," said Gursel.
     
    Even on the thorny question of religion in society, Sarigul is breaking from his party's traditional approach. The CHP portrays itself as defender of the secular state -- and, until recently, supported restrictions on the wearing of religious head scarves by Muslim women. The Islamist-rooted AK Party has been successful in portraying its rival as anti-Muslim -- a serious handicap, analysts say, in a conservative society like Turkey. But Sarigul claims he embraces his Islamic faith.
     
    “I am from a devout family,” he said. “But I am close to all religious communities living here: I visit churches, synagogues; everyone knows my stance towards religion.  For prayer, I go to small unknown mosques across the city, in order not to be seen by the media. I don’t want my faith to be apart of politics,” he said. “Faith is for reaching God, not power.”
     
    Sarigul is at home in both religious and secular neighborhoods in Istanbul, and according to several polls is running neck and neck with the AK Party.
     
    Former newspaper editor Yasmin Congar said Istanbul is of crucial importance to the AK Party.
     
    "Oh, it would be a huge loss. It would be like losing Turkey, because Istanbul is the dynamo of the whole society: politically, economically, culturally -- everything happens in Istanbul. It would be a huge loss, it would be the beginning of the end for AKP if they lost Istanbul," said Congar.
     
    A recording has surfaced, purportedly of Prime Minister Erdogan talking to a media boss, telling him to stop reporting on Sarigul. Apologizing, the media boss promises to comply. Sarigul has become largely invisible in much of the media.
     
    The AK Party strongly denies that it is exerting this kind of pressure, but such accusations and concerns are increasingly being heard across the city. Nonetheless, few people are expecting Sarigul to give up his battle to become mayor of Istanbul without a fight.

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games, Despite Woes

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora