Criticism grows for CHP mayoral candidate from within party over discriminatory remark against pro-Kurdish DEM

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, from the main opposition CHP, criticized the party’s Afyonkarahisar mayoral candidate Burcu Köksal who said the municipality’s door would be open to all political parties “except for the DEM Party.” İmamoğlu said Köksal will either find another job apart from mayorship or another party.

CHP leader Özgür Özel (L) and party's Afyonkarahisar mayoral candidate Burcu Köksal (R) during a local election rally held in the province on March 6

Duvar English

The criticisms for Burcu Köksal, the mayoral candidate of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) in Afyonkarahisar province, have been growing from within the party over her discriminatory remarks against the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party.

Köksal, who has been also a CHP MP since 2015, on March 6 said if elected, the doors of the municipality would be open to "every political party except the DEM Party,” during an election campaign in Afyonkarahisar.

On March 7, CHP’s Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu criticized Köksal during an opening ceremony in Istanbul’s Bakirköy district.

“Those who say, ‘If I become mayor, I will not let these parties into the municipality, I will meet with these people except for these parties’ will either find another job or find another party! We don't discriminate people,” İmamoğlu said without explicitly mentioning Köksal’s name.

On the same day, the CHP released a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter, and said, “The doors of our municipalities will be open to everyone until the end. Not a single citizen will be deprived of their rights and public services because of their identity.”

After Köksal’s comments, CHP leader Özgür Özel said at a rally in Uşak province on March 6 that "There was a slip of the tongue. The doors of both Afyon Municipality and Uşak Municipality are open to everyone." 

However, Köksal told journalist Barış Yarkadaş that she denied Özel and there was no slip of the tongue, Yarkadaş said during a live TV100 broadcast.

Later on March 7, Özel said in Kütahya province that their mayoral candidates will sign a letter of commitment "to provide equal and equitable services without discrimination."

“Let no one have any doubt; the doors of the Republican People's Party municipalities will be open to everyone,” CHP MP Oğuz Kaan Salıcı said.

Despite the 2019 local elections, the DEM Party fielded mayoral candidates in most of the key provinces for the upcoming local elections to be held on March 31. Even though the pro-Kurdish party was not part of an alliance with the CHP in the previous elections, it did not field candidates in constituencies where the CHP had a higher chance of winning including Istanbul.