CHP pardons xenophobic mayor Tanju Özcan ahead of local elections

Turkey’s main opposition CHP on Nov. 27 pardoned the xenophobic Bolu mayor, Tanju Özcan, who was expelled from the party on July 2023. Özcan announced that he would run for Bolu mayor in the upcoming local elections.

Duvar English

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) on Nov. 27 pardoned Tanju Özcan, the mayor of the Bolu Province in the Marmara region, who was expelled in July 2023.

The party assembly accepted Özcan’s pardon request along with 12 others as part of its centennial pardons.

Özcan was initially punished with a year-long probation after making a sexist remark to Hacer Çınar, a municipal representative from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) during a meeting. The party referred him to the disciplinary committee for definite expulsion after his probation period was over. 

Özcan expressed his happiness about returning to his “family home,” and said that he would run for Bolu mayor in the upcoming local elections in March 2024. 

Özcan shared a positive note on his social media as the assembly voted on his return. “Anyone I might have unintentionally hurt with my posts and speeches in this process, I would like to ask for your blessings.” 

“I will work even harder for our party’s local and overall success. Everything will be even better,” he wrote, alluding to CHP Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu’s catchphrase the party adopted during its general election campaign. 

Party officials noted that Özcan personally visited the party headquarters after his pardon was official and made more declarations of goodwill. 

Party spokesperson Deniz Yücel also stated that newly elected party leader Özgür Özel talked with his predecessor Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu about Özcan’s potential pardon. Kılıçdaroğlu was open to Özcan’s return to CHP, said Yücel. 

Özcan also drew criticism in 2021 with his xenophobic remarks and policy proposals against the Syrian refugees residing in Bolu. 

The mayor was also a staunch critic of the previous party leader and presidential candidate Kılıçdaroğlu. After the general election defeat, he marched from Bolu to Istanbul demanding Kılıçdaroğlu’s resignation.