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Cablegate: Turkey: Adana Mayor's Race Breaks Wide Open As Incumbent

VZCZCXRO4069
RR RUEHDA
DE RUEHDA #0050/01 3371608
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 021608Z DEC 08
FM AMCONSUL ADANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4690
INFO RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 1233
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 1041
RUEHDA/AMCONSUL ADANA 1295

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ADANA 000050

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY: ADANA MAYOR'S RACE BREAKS WIDE OPEN AS INCUMBENT
ABRUPTLY RESIGNS FROM AK PARTY

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The sudden resignation of Adana's four-term
mayor Aytac Durak from AKP may present an insurmountable
challenge to the party's chance to retake Adana in upcoming
municipal elections. Outside theories abound on reasons for
Durak's renunciation of AKP membership including a spurned
Durak, a generally souring relationship and AKP's fear of being
linked to charges of corruption that have resurfaced in the
mayor's office. Ever-popular Durak now faces the difficult
dilemma of where to hitch his political wagon - to go with a
small, politically insignificant party or run as an independent.
In the end, for voters it will come down to party loyalty
verses candidate loyalty. END SUMMARY.

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ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL - AND PERSONAL

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2. (SBU) Over the weekend of November 29, Adana's politically
savvy Mayor Aytac Durak, abruptly quit the ruling AK Party
(Justice and Development Party) on whose ticket he ran in 2004.
Durak is the longest serving big-city mayor in Turkey; prior to
AKP, he ran under the banner of the DYP (True Path Party) as
well as ANAP (Motherland Party). His move comes weeks in
advance of political parties' announcement of their candidates
for the March 2009 local elections, and may jeopardize AKP's
chances of reclaiming the greater Adana municipality as Durak
tops the charts in Adana for name recognition and is a proven
favorite among voters. In a televised press conference, a
feisty and indignant Durak explained it was insulting to the
people of Adana, 75% of whom had expressed in a recent poll
(conducted by his own office) overwhelming support for his
reelection, that AKP would still insist on holding a local
caucus to select the party's mayoral candidate. Durak said it
was "utterly impossible" for him to accept this, and he was
giving notice in order to stand in solidarity with his
constituents.

3. (SBU) Durak's political ambitions are clear: he will run
again, but the question is whether he remains independent or
hitches his star to another political wagon. Durak himself
discussed with us the pros and cons of running as an independent
(more respect from voters, but little political clout in Ankara
and his hangers-on would be bereft of a political future once he
leaves office); and running on the ticket of a small party (less
respect, some political cover, but party affiliates would be
forever seeking favors.) He admitted that his latest poll
results may not be valid, given respondents answered under the
assumption he would run on the AKP ticket, but remained
confident that voter loyalty to his personal candidacy would
trump AKP party allegiance. On the subject of his fallout with
AKP, he acknowledged things could have been different if AKP had
nominated him early on.

4. (SBU) Durak's political longevity and peerless
self-promotion skills ensure he's always in the media
(especially on his son's private TV station) and a regular
subject of dinner-table talk. Local business leader Mustafa
Gulek believes rumors of Durak's corruption turned the AKP
leadership against him. Acar Filiz, a broadcasting director for
a local television station, believes Durak has been on the outs
with AKP for several months, and skillfully timed his piqued
resignation just hours before AKP Provincial Party leader
Mustafa Attaroglu announced his own plans to run for mayor.

5. (SBU) Within AKP there will now be a struggle to be named as
the candidate. While many are focused on Attaroglu, Gultekin
Genc, deputy mayor of Adana's affluent Seyhan district, thinks
his boss, Mayor Azim Ozturk, will be PM Tayyip Erdogan's pick
for the greater municipality, and will successfully topple
Durak. Genc guesses the politically green Attaroglu will take
the Seyhan slot.

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ADANA 00000050 002 OF 002


COMMENT

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6. (SBU) Party affiliation is unimportant for Durak, who has
thrived as the parties he ran with have waxed and waned. An
entire generation of Adana voters knows of no other candidate
besides the 70-year-old charismatic populist. Durak will
certainly play the populist card to portray AKP as out-of-touch
with the hearts and minds of Adana's citizens, but the AKP
machine will give the mayor a serious challenge as the party is
well organized and generous in distributing coal and food to
needy families. AKP's candidate choice will also be important.
While Ozturk has the party credentials and administrative
experience to challenge Durak, Attaroglu is straight out of
central casting for a political hot-shot - a tall, handsome,
smooth operator whose former military officer credentials and
head-scarved wife cover both sides of the political fence.
Adana will be in for an exciting election season.
GREEN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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