CHP's Mustafa Sarıgül attempts to present voters with a strong alternative in the race for Istanbul mayor
It took quite a while for Mustafa Sarıgül to announce his projects as well as his candidacy for the position of Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor. He finally announced his projects a couple of days ago at Point Hotel in Beşiktaş. I went to the meeting with great enthusiasm, although I was not feeling well. I realized I was the first journalist to arrive when I entered the room with the Republican People's Party (CHP) Provincial Chairman Oğuz Kaan Salıcı.
Another thing I noticed was that the room was different to traditional CHP meeting rooms; it was endowed with plain, unflustered promotional banners. On every banner was a project to be presented by Sarıgül. The stage was also plain. On the screen, there was nothing but the slogan "A Unique Istanbul" along with the CHP logo. I looked at my surroundings and then at Sarıgül. I thought to myself "something is off, but what?"
Sarıgül's hyperactive and excited political persona in such a calm atmosphere seemed unnatural to me, but I was curious to see how they would overlap.
Istanbul needs calmness, but I was not sure this was it. The projects seemed to place more emphasis on the "elite" parts rather than the "populist" parts.
Sarıgül was present with his entire stable. Although in haste, we had a chance to chat. "How do you see the situation?" he asked. It is difficult to tell a politician that his rival is in the lead, but I replied: "There is at least a three-point difference." He politely continued: "Perhaps, but we are working hard, we will close the gap." Journalists, writers and editors began arriving one by one. As far as I could see, no media discrimination had been made and everyone was present.
While food was being served, Sarıgül took to the stage and began talking about his projects. As he spoke, I remembered the speech he held a month ago in the same room. "Our teams in Tokyo, Beijing, Paris and New York are working on our projects as we speak. We will announce these projects 20 days ahead of the elections," he had said. I figured that day was today and continued listening.
I wonder what visions he had for a more global city like Istanbul. He made an evaluation: "The residents of Istanbul; the city has been run by the same mentality for 20 years. The point we are at today, unfortunately ranks us 109th among world cities. This ranking is a summary of our mental state. The Istanbulite is tired, fed-up and hopeless, and self-interest is immensely wearing out everyone." Then he gave an account of how to escape this exhaustion by saying: "The answer is Sarıgül. People are tired. Istanbul is seeking a new voice, new air, new hopes and new excitement. Do not worry, dear Istanbulites, we are coming for a unique Istanbul!"
What will they be doing? Sarıgül said he and his team have prepared close to 200 projects, and announced 28 of them. The list read as a train of proposals ranging from city squares to city museums, green areas to integrated public transportation models and "two dams in two shores" to a reorganization of the historical peninsula. The fact that the third bridge was not mentioned during the visual presentation was interesting.
The meeting may not have evoked an "a-ha" moment, but Mustafa Sarıgül's attempts to provide a new option for the people by emphasizing politics and projects, and his intention to win the election, are important.
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