Fresh faces in Turkish parliament reflect changing political landscape

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Turkish deputies take part in a vote for the proposed early presidential and parliamentary elections during the general assembly of Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara, on April 20, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

Turkey’s snap elections on Sunday have brought new faces to parliament apart from experienced politicians from various parties, reflecting dramatic changes in the political landscape of the country.

Former national football player Alpay Özalan and world-famous motorcycle racer Kenan Sofuoğlu have been elected as deputies for the Justice and Development Party (AKP), a sign that the party has consolidated its support in the mainstream.

Sofuoğlu recently ended his sports career upon a call by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and was criticized by the media when he attended a party meeting in his latest model Lamborghini.

Famous investigative journalist Ahmet Şık, who was jailed in two separate cases of “terrorist propaganda,” and popular actor Barış Atay, whose play “Only Dictator” had recently been censored, have become Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputies, along with human rights activist Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu.

Four academics who were dismissed from their jobs by a government decree for signing a petition called “Academics for Peace,” a group demand that the government halt military operations in the southeastern part of the country, also were elected members of parliament.

Among them, İbrahim Kaboğlu and Cihangir İslam will serve as deputies for the Republican People’s Party (CHP), while Sezai Temelli, the co-chair of his party, and Erol Katırcıoğlu will be seated in the HDP rows in parliament.

The youngest member of parliament, Rümeysa Kadak (22), was elected in İstanbul for the AKP, while the oldest member will be Deniz Baykal (79), the former chairman of the CHP, who is currently hospitalized for cerebral edema.

Some CHP members openly criticized Baykal’s nomination due to his age and deteriorating health.

Former AKP deputy and party co-founder Bülent Arınç’s son Mücahit Arınç was elected from the AKP after the elder Arınç had repaired his relations with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in April amid rumors of former President Abdullah Gül’s candidacy for president in the snap elections.

Tolga Ağar, the son of Mehmet Ağar, a former interior minister and controversial figure for his alleged ties to crooked police chiefs and mafia leaders, also entered parliament on the AKP ticket amid discussions about the party leaning towards now-nationalist figures from the political center of the past, including former Prime Minister Tansu Çiller.

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