Former Istanbul district mayor Sarıgül returns to Turkish politics

Recently known for his TikTok videos where he shouts and slaps objects in the face of expensive items and rising inflation, Mustafa Sarıgül has been elected as a lawmaker from Erzincan province from the main opposition CHP.

Duvar English

Party for Change in Turkey (TDP) leader Mustafa Sarıgül has been elected as lawmaker from the eastern Erzincan province in the May 14 elections from the Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Sarıgül formed the TDP after leaving the CHP in 2020. He was the mayor of Istanbul’s Şişli district between 1999 and 2014, for three consecutive terms, from the Democratic Left Party (DSP) and CHP. He was also the CHP's Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality candidate for the 2014 local elections but lost the race to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidate Kadir Topbaş.

In the May 14 parliamentary elections, the CHP received 36.31% of the votes, second after the AKP’s 38.42%, whereas CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu received 35.69% in the presidential race. Some people deemed this difference “Sarıgül effect.” He has been known for his frequent visits to voters, including shopkeepers, villagers, farmers and so on.

In an interview with Medyascope during the election campaign, Sarıgül said “I shake hands with 5500-6000 people a day (in Erzincan). I wake up at 6 a.m.” 

Sarıgül is recently known for his TikTok videos where he shouts and slaps objects and even people around him after hearing expensive items.

In one of his TikTok videos, he asked the price of one piece of baklava. When he heard “20 liras,” Sarıgül said, “I don't understand, I'm asking only one piece.”

“Previously, one kilogram (baklava) was 20 liras, now one piece is 20 liras. How will my citizens buy it?” he added.

In another video, he slapped sunflower oil in the face of rising cost of living.

In this video, he said “A refrigerator, an oven, a washing machine costs between 25,000 and 30,000 liras,” and slapped a refrigerator door.

After he was elected as lawmaker, some social media users on Twitter recalled their memories of Sarıgül when he was Şişli Mayor.

“This man is very different. There is a taxi rank next to my house in Şişli. It was opening at 6 am. Sarıgül also had a spare key for the rank (he had spare keys for every taxi rank). Some days, he would come at 5 am, open the rank himself, brew tea inside, and wait for the taxi drivers to arrive at 6 am,” one user said.

“Our apartment serviceman was an AKP supporter. I asked ‘How was Sarıgül?’. He said ‘He was a great man, he would visit the street every week, recognize me by name, ring the bell and call me. He would ask me, Murat, how this apartment was, what the street was like… He was a wonderful man,” the same user added.

In another story, one user said “Sarıgül is a very strange man. Once I woke up to a noise. I think it was a holiday. Sarıgül was on the balcony of our house. Zero jokes. He was traveling on the bus, the car stopped, and Sarıgül climbed over the bus to our balcony to make a speech. We waved at each other, then I went inside to get my coffee. Wherever I went in Şişli, we would meet and wave to each other. I have no idea about the source of this energy.”

However, he was also accused of serious corruption allegations during his mayorship. In a CHP convention to elect the new chair in 2005, where Sarıgül ran, then-CHP leader Deniz Baykal accused him of corruption and bribery.

He lately said that he will work hard for CHP leader and presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu to secure him a victory in the second round of the presidential election. 

“I will travel from village to village, from town to town. If a person is given such authority, the dollar exceeds 30 liras and bread becomes 10 liras, I will say,” Sarıgül said.