Former national footballer Zan becomes TİP’s Hatay mayoral candidate

Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) has nominated former national football player Gökhan Zan as their mayoral candidate in the quake-torn Hatay province. Zan has been a vocal critic of the government’s lacking rescue efforts in Hatay. 

Gökhan Zan (C) announces his mayoral candidacy with TİP vice chair Barış Atay (L) and Istanbul MP Sera Kadıgil (R)

Duvar English

Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) on Feb. 12 nominated formal national football player Gökhan Zan as the quake-torn Hatay province’s mayoral candidate for the upcoming local elections. 

Deputy Sera Kadıgil said that the party heard “Hatay residents’ voice, outcry, revolt” in selecting Zan as the joint candidate of the Hatay people. 

Zan took the stance after the announcement and said “Let’s say ‘No more’ to this dire course of events and change it as the people of Hatay."

He repeated his call to the contested main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate and current mayor Lütfü Savaş to rescind his candidacy. 

Zan has been known for explaining the extent of damage of earthquakes in Hatay province in the early days. He has also been outspoken against Savaş, who had been in office for ten years at the time of the earthquakes.

“No one came for us the first three days after the quake. We only had our solidarity. We could not see state institutions, municipalities, or the Disaster And Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD),” said Zan in his speech. AFAD is Turkey’s state-run disaster response agency. 

He continued, “Until today, we talked about how the government left us alone. But we should also talk about how we are restricted to vote for those who are no different from the government.”

The candidate criticized CHP for not consulting the public while making the call to field Savaş. “The Hatay public showed their real feelings for Savaş during the Feb. 6 commemorative march,” he said. 

People had booed and whistled Savaş and CHP leader Özgür Özel as they joined the night march on the anniversary of the earthquakes. Zan was also at the commemoration, and he had reacted to government officials by shouting, “You left us dead in the first three days. We do not welcome you here.” 

Zan protests government officials on the first anniversary commemoration for the earthquakes

“I am sick and tired of being constrained between the bad and the worse,” Zan added. He stated that he was running against the government and the opposition that both left Hatay alone after the quakes and had responsibility for its destruction. 

He also signaled that TİP had room for adjustments should CHP change its mind about Savaş. “If you back out of this mistake, I am ready to make every sacrifice necessary to tend to Hatay’s wounds,” Zan said. 

The ex-footballer concluded his remarks by saying he would not allow supporters of zoning amnesties, rentiers, or favoritism in Hatay. 

Reactions to Savaş’s candidacy during the Feb. 6 remembrance events had forced CHP to reconsider its candidate for the province. Party officials had stated that they would "definitely" discuss Savaş’s candidacy in this week’s Party Assembly meeting upon hearing Hatay’s residents’ uproar.

Nevertheless, Savaş chose to dismiss the criticism as a “political ploy,” and declared he would stay in the race. He also accused Zan of instigating the protest against him. 

Journalist İsmail Saymaz reported that CHP on Feb. 9 offered the Hatay mayor candidacy to the founder of AHBAP foundation Haluk Levent. 

Levent was another celebrated figure after the earthquakes, as his foundation acted quicly and efficiently to coordinate relief efforts in the affected area. Levent spoke to Saymaz and said he declined CHP’s offer, as he had promised the foundation’s supporters that he would stay out of politics. 

Zan had joined the nationalist opposition İYİ (Good) Party in March to “voice the plight of the Hatay population.” He declared his resignation from the party in December, amidst the party's internal strife regarding a potential alliance with CHP in the coming local elections. 

Hatay was the province with the highest TİP votes, as Gezi prisoner Can Atalay was the party’s candidate. Although Atalay was elected to the parliament with 8,56% of the votes, his release was not approved by Turkey’s highest appeals court. His deputyship was revoked on Jan. 31, and now Hatay constituents have one less representative in the Turkish parliament.