Sinan Oğan, the fourth candidate in Türkiye’s May 14 presidential (and also parliamentary) elections, is a former deputy from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which is now Erdoğan’s ally. Born in 1967 in Iğdır, Türkiye’s easternmost city bordering Armenia and Iran, Oğan is the youngest of the presidential candidates.
The characteristics of the Victory Party (Zafer Partisi) chaired by Ümit Özdağ, which nominated Oğan as candidate, are as important as the political career and portrait of Sinan Oğan, arguably the candidate with lowest vote percentage among the four presidential candidates. Ümit Özdağ first joined the Good Party founded by a group that broke away from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) but then left the Good Party to found the Victory Party. He is known for his racist and xenophobic statements. Özdağ, using hate speech especially against Syrians who are refugees in Türkiye, declared that he would send Syrians to their country with a “catapult”.
The Victory Party that will run in the parliamentary elections in alliance with the Justice Party -which exists only on paper – has started out as an activist party but does not have a significant electoral base. Ümit Özdağ intends to replicate the success of the rising ultra-nationalist-fascist parties in Europe. Het he was never able to formulate any philosophy or program apart from denouncing Syrians as enemies.
Demonizing Syrian refugees
Sinan Oğan says, “As soon as I am elected as president, I will send back all refugees and fugitives who are stealing the future of Türkiye’s youth.” He is also making propaganda limited to this framework and like Özdağ, is far from proposing a broader program that addresses the country’s problems. So much so that the only recipe he offers to solve all the problems of the country starting with the economy is to change the refugee policy and deport them all. This lies at the core of Oğan’s election promises. Emphasizing that Türkiye’s employment opportunities and social expenditures will become much more effective once it is free of Syrians and other migrants, Oğan claims that “the question of how to fix the economy is not a difficult one at all.”
Sinan Oğan was expelled from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in 2017 on the grounds of praising the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), the political branch of the separatist terrorist organization PKK. Oğan is an academic known for his work on the Turkic countries in Asia and Russia and owes his public reputation mainly to TV debates on these topics.
Underlining that the opposition is as responsible as the government for Türkiye’s political and economic deterioration over the last 20 years, Oğan’s second major electoral promise is to rejuvenate Turkish politics: “Our political world no longer needs grandfathers, but dynamic, energetic young politicians.” In this regard he argues that he is representing the future of Türkiye.
“The US and NATO should win Türkiye back”
Oğan claims that Türkiye is under a “silent invasion”, but still doesn’t differ much from the other three candidates – whom he whom he criticizes to have “outdated mentality” – on foreign policy. For example, despite his statements like “we will not allow the establishment of Kurdistan” and “Arab Spring was provoked by imperialism”, his priority in foreign policy is to maintain good relations with the US and NATO and to work for the Western alliance to “win Türkiye back”.
This position is quite clear especially on Syria policy. “If NATO and the US want to win Türkiye back, they should declare Idlib a no-fly zone. Otherwise, Russia’s air power superiority in Syria will lead to much bloodier wars,” he says. Even though Oğan voices the slogan “Neither America, nor Russia, nor China, everything is for Turkishness!”, he cannot avoid being one of the contemporary manifestations of traditional conservative Turkish nationalism under the US guidance.