CHP deems re-fielding unpopular Hatay Mayor Lütfü Savaş ‘political call’

Officials from Turkey’s main opposition CHP on Jan. 12 called the party’s decision to re-field Lütfü Savaş, the unpopular Mayor of the southeastern Hatay province a “political call.” Savaş was criticized for inattentiveness after the Feb. 6 earthquakes that ravaged the province.

Ceren Bayar / Gazete Duvar 

Officials from Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) on Jan. 12 called the party’s decision to re-field Mayor Lütfü Savaş in the upcoming local elections for quake-torn Hatay province a “political call.” The decision received backlash from the Hatay public, criticizing Savaş for his lack of management after the Feb. 6 earthquakes. 

CHP officials justified the decision by saying that Savaş had led all the local polls by a landslide. They stated that the party was aware of the potential backlash the decision would create. “The polls said Lütfü Savaş. Therefore we listened to Hatay public,” they concluded. 

Party staffers predicted their chance of winning the metropolitan municipality in Hatay was already slim, and Savaş was the only candidate who could increase their odds. 

"We knew that it would be a grave political responsibility if we did not nominate Savaş and lost Hatay," stated the officials. They self-criticized that the party could not create a strong political actor in the province.  

Party head Özgür Özel on Jan. 12 spoke with journalist İsmail Saymaz from the daily Sözcü about Savaş’s candidacy. “He is very popular in rural Hatay, and we projected loss whenever we replaced him. We tried very hard, ran four polls, and could find no alternative,” he said about the party’s process in nominating Savaş. He added that he was not aware if Savaş was responsible for the destruction in Hatay after the Feb. 6 earthquakes. 

CHP announced Lütfü Savaş’s official candidacy on Jan. 11 and received criticism from various segments of society. Critics believed Savaş did not take accountability for the extent of the destruction in Hatay and did not properly respond to the needs of the earthquake-stricken province.

Savaş was first elected as the mayor of Antakya district from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the 2009 Local Elections, yet switched to the CHP when he was not nominated for the Hatay municipality in the following term. He has been the Mayor of Hatay since 2014.

More than 20,000 people were killed and 13,000 buildings collapsed in Hatay, one of the cities hardest hit by the earthquakes.

(English version by Ayşenaz Toptaş)