TİP withdraws Gökhan Zan’s mayoral candidacy upon bribery allegations

The Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) has withdrawn Gökhan Zan’s mayoral candidacy for the quake-torn Hatay province upon allegations of him discussing bribes and a job offer at the state-run channel TRT surfaced. Zan has refused to withdraw and encouraged voters to choose him against the main opposition CHP’s controversial candidate, Lütfü Savaş. 

Duvar English

The Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) on March 17 announced they withdrew former national footballer Gökhan Zan's mayoral candidacy in the quake-torn Hatay province upon allegations surfaced of him discussing bribes and lobbying for a sports commentator job at the state-run channel TRT. 

The statement read, “We have heard various allegations about our candidate Gökhan Zan making contacts we can never tolerate.” 

The party noted that Zan has refused all allegations, however, they could not overlook even the slightest doubt cast upon the candidate. 

“We apologize for involuntarily getting involved in this unsavory situation,” wrote the party in the statement. 

They added that they still urged the Hatay constituents to not vote for any candidates that have been involved in any crimes committed against the people, referring to the unpopular candidate of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Lütfü Savaş. 

The CHP’s insistence to field Savaş against the wishes of the Hatay public led TİP to nominate Zan as the alternative. Zan had been a popular figure in the aftermath of the 2023 earthquakes to raise awareness about the province’s destruction. 

In the hours following TİP’s announcement, Zan issued a public statement about the allegations.

He stated in front of a Hatay courthouse that he filed a criminal complaint about the threats and blackmail he had been receiving in the past week.  

He claimed that Savaş’s men had been threatening to harm his family and his credibility through fabricated voice recordings, demanding he withdraw the mayoral candidacy. 

The threats were realized, he alleged, as a fake voice recording of Zan was sent to TİP. 

Zan refused to withdraw from the elections. “I have not submitted to these threats in the past, and I will not submit to them now,” the former footballer announced. “As of tomorrow morning, I will be the voice of my neighbors even stronger than before,” he said. 

Zan shared the footage of his statement on his social media, with the note, “My dear people, I have said that I would never back down from the struggle no matter what obstacle was put in my way.” 

Journalist İsmail Saymaz on March 18 suggested that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) offered Zan money and a sports commentator job at the state-run TRT channel if he did not withdraw his candidacy. These recordings of this conversation were later forwarded to TİP.

Saymaz added that Zan staunchly rejected the recordings where he was heard discussing a bribe, claiming they were created via Artificial Intelligence (AI). He has since submitted the recordings to the prosecutor’s office for an investigation.

Zan will appear on the ballot on March 31 despite TİP’s withdrawal, since the deadline to finalize candidates passed.