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Controversial mayor expelled from Turkey’s main opposition party

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Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has expelled from its ranks a controversial mayor known for his anti-refugee discourse and calls for a leadership change in the party, BBC Turkish service reported.

The CHP’s disciplinary committee announced following a meeting on Wednesday the indefinite expulsion of Tanju Özcan, mayor of the northwestern province of Bolu, from the party.

Özcan accused CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu of being behind his expulsion from the party, saying that Kılıçdaroğlu, who has lost 12 elections since he became party leader in 2010, made his expulsion possible thanks to the members of the disciplinary committee he had named.

The mayor was temporarily expelled from the party last year after he had a confrontation with a female municipal council member from the ruling party on the grounds that his actions did not comport with the party’s rules. Özcan was accused at the time of employing a sexist discourse against the woman.

Following the end of his temporary expulsion, the mayor was referred to the party’s disciplinary board for his indefinite expulsion from the party.

Following an election defeat suffered by Kılıçdaroğlu, the joint candidate of an opposition alliance, in the presidential election in May to incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Özcan has strongly called for a leadership change in the party.

He launched a “Change and Justice” march from Bolu to CHP headquarters in Ankara earlier this month, which he completed in eight days.

On July 13 Özcan delivered a speech at a party bus in front of CHP headquarters from where he threw a chair out to Kılıçdaroğlu.

He accused Kılıçdaroğlu of not leaving his chair as CHP leader despite suffering an election defeat.

“It is time to send chair-lover Mr. Kemal [from the party’s leadership]. If you love chairs so much, I have brought one for you. Now leave that chair, take this one and go home and spend time with your grandchildren,” Özcan told Kılıçdaroğlu.

The CHP leader has been receiving criticism from his political allies and supporters for failing to view his loss in the presidential runoff as a defeat.

In an interview with Habertürk TV last week, Kılıçdaroğlu indicated that he didn’t view the election loss as a “defeat” and refused to engage in any self-criticism for the results.

In addition to his opposition to Kılıçdaroğlu’s leadership, Özcan is notorious for his anti-refugee discourse and controversial measures he took to convince refugees to leave Bolu.

The mayor frequently sparks criticism from human rights groups due to his remarks and measures targeting the refugees living in the city such as imposing exorbitant fees for municipal services.

Last year he also had billboards put up in Bolu telling Syrian refugees in Arabic to return to their homeland since they’re no longer wanted in Turkey.

Yet, Özcan’s anti-refugee stance is believed to have played no role in his expulsion from the party because Kılıçdaroğlu also made the repatriation of Syrian refugees a central part of his election campaign. He promised to send the Syrian refugees back home if he were to win the presidency.

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