Turkey's only communist mayor vows small steps to socialism – Reuters
Turkey’s sole socialist mayor, who just stepped into office as mayor of the central district of the eastern province Tunceli, believes that despite capitalism’s firm roots in Turkey, he will have success in nudging it along “the path to socialism,” Reuters reported.
Fatih Maçoğlu, from the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP), was unknown to rest of the country until the March 31 local elections, which saw President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Islamist-rooted AK Party lose control of the capital Ankara and his hometown of Istanbul.
Maçoğlu’s victory has been a cause for celebration among Turkish leftists, Reuters said, noting that Turkish politics have for some time often been dominated by right-wing nationalist or Islamist parties.
Tunceli is home to minorities such as the Kurds, Zazas and Alevis, has long been a stronghold for leftist and those holding secularist views.
Tunceli’s last elected mayor was removed from office for suspected links to the outlawed militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an armed group at war in Turkey for over 30 years, and replaced with a government appointed trustee.
Maçoğlu’s first move after being elected was removing the walls, but he also knows he has to adapt his ideals to the tough economic and security conditions of provincial Turkey, Reuters said.
“When we went to people before elections, they had two problems. First, they did not want walls, bureaucracy between the people and the municipality. Second was the issue of unemployment,” Maçoğlu said.
“As part of this world where capitalism, imperialism, fascism rule, this country is unable to work without them,” he added. “Of course, we are not establishing communism. We want to clear the path to socialism that has been polluted by capitalism.”
Maçoğlu rose to local prominence five years ago when he was elected to run Tunceli’s Ovacik district, when he was quick to pay off most of the municipality’s sizeable debt while providing free public transportation and opening up government land for agriculture.
For locals such as Şerife Ozdemir, 64, a retired teacher from nearby Malatya, he has been able to change perceptions about socialism in a noteworthy fashion.
“In the past, if two people fought, instead of swearing, one would yell, ‘communist, communist,’ and the other would feel offended,” Özdemir told Reuters.
For Serkan Sariates, 44, a bookstore owner who wears a beret with a red star, Tunceli has always been a socialist society “because people here believe in fairness and equality”.
Maçoğlu has put up posters outside the town hall detailing municipal expenditure and income as he prepares to take on high unemployment, which he puts as high as 35 percent.
He is looking to promote tourism, cooperative farms and the construction of eco-friendly homes for rent.
Not everyone in Tunceli is on board with his plans.
“The conditions are not suitable here,” Firaz Tekol, a 24-year-old sociology student, told Reuters. “He’s going to have a hard time tackling all these problems.”