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The “Communist Mayor” of Turkey and his mission to conquer Istanbul

The “Communist Mayor” of Turkey and his mission to conquer Istanbul

In 2019, Macoglu became the first communist mayor of Tunceli.

Istanbul:

Fatih Macoglu, the popular “communist mayor” of a city in eastern Turkey, is now vying for control of a vibrant and fashionable Istanbul district on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus.

In 2019, he was elected mayor of Tunceli, a Kurdish-Alevi-majority city in eastern Anatolia known for its extremely secular and left-wing orientation.

During his five years in office, he won praise for tearing down the doors of his office in a show of transparency.

This time, he is targeting Istanbul’s Kadikoy district, a bastion of the secular opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), in the March 31 election.

The charismatic, mustachioed 55-year-old is running for the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP), which has no seats in the national parliament.

In an interview with AFP during his election campaign in Kadikoy, Macoglu said his experience as mayor showed that good governance was possible.

“The world is getting worse and I believe that socialists can reverse this trend,” he said.

“Socialists are competent to govern this country and this world.”

“Honest approach”

In 2019, Macoglu became the first communist mayor of Tunceli, a town formerly known as Dersim that has a turbulent history.

He took over a city council that had been run by the pro-Kurdish HDP party – until it was handed over to a government-appointed trustee after a failed 2016 coup that overthrew longtime President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Macoglu refused to use his official car and announced his council’s finances on a banner at the front of his office building to show people how he had spent their money.

He founded a cooperative to promote organic honey and chickpeas, the sale of which funded university students from poor families and provided free transportation for the students.

“I have closely followed Macoglu’s successful practices. I was impressed by his honest approach to politics,” said Sevgi Celik, a 42-year-old resident of Kadikoy.

“I am confident that he will do the same here in Kadikoy,” Celik added.

“I think we are not experiencing good times. The land is generally not in good condition. For things to get better, we need better people in power.”

Murat Karabiyik, 46, agreed that the current order needed to be changed.

“We can’t find accommodation. We can’t eat. We can’t drink. We can’t travel. “That has to change,” he said.

“People who belong to political parties are usually in pursuit of profit. That is not the case here. God willing, we will change that.”

Asked whether he would stick to the same novel approach if elected mayor of Kadikoy, Macoglu said: “Of course. Our city works because we have a program.”

Macoglu’s bid for Kadikoy – an arts district with lively cafes, bars and galleries – drew criticism from supporters of the CHP and the pro-Kurdish DEM party, which also has a presence in Istanbul.

They said Macoglu should have run for a workers’ district in Istanbul or else stay in Tunceli.

Macoglu told AFP he found the criticism useful but stressed he was not hostile to any of the opposition parties.

“We are socialists. We want to explain to the public that there are better programs. We are not against any party.”

‘We will win’

Some commentators say Macoglu could attract votes from people disillusioned with the CHP, which seized control of Istanbul from Erdogan’s Islamic conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2019.

“You can be sure we will win,” he said confidently.

Macoglu has promised transparency, freedoms and accountability, including opening the council’s resources to the general public rather than reserving the funds for individuals or monopolies.

He said he would be inclusive toward all groups — including the LGBTQ community, which expresses itself freely in Kadikoy and is often targeted by Erdogan’s right-wing alliance.

Erdogan has repeatedly railed against LGBTQ people in Turkey.

They were his particular target during last year’s presidential election campaign, when he accused them of endangering traditional family values ​​and described them as “perverted.”

“We defend the right to life of everyone, including LGBTQ people,” Macoglu said.

“We say this primarily because the current political climate is marginalizing these issues.”

When asked if the nickname “Communist Mayor” bothered him, Macoglu replied: “Not at all. That makes me happy.”

“Communism is a way of life. The capitalist, imperialist system has given the communists a very bad image that they do not deserve,” he said.

“Wherever I go in the country, there are millions of people who say… ‘If this is communism, that’s very good.'”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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