Belit Onay won the first round vote in Hannover mayoral race. He could be the first Turkish-descent major city mayor in Germany but more importantly his win could prove Germans can still fight xenophobia.
Former East German state Thuringia held elections on Sunday which further shocked the German political spectrum. Germany’s far-right xenophobic party AFD doubled its vote and came in second in the elections. AFD votes has been steadily on the rise but Thuringia results showed how German far-right became unstoppable as days have gone by. An unexpected hope, however, arrived from a Turkish-descent politician.
38 years old Belit Onay came in first with 32.4 percent vote on the first round of elections in the German city of Hannover. The center left party SPD has been running the city for staggering 73 years and they are out as they came in 4th in the first round. Onay could become the first Turkish-descent mayor if he wins the second round in two weeks of time. Hannover is the 13th largest city in Germany with little over 500 thousand population and the capital of Lower Saxony state.
Belit Onay was born to a Turkish immigrant family whom moved to Germany in 1970. He was one of the few lucky immigrant Turks whom could manage his way up in German politics. In 2013, Onay was elected to the Saxony state parliament from the Greens. As Germany has been perplexed on how to fight increasing xenophobia, his candidacy and possible win could show there is still hope in Germany.
SOLINGEN MASSACRE TURNED HIM INTO POLITICS
“My life has been changed by Solingen massacre which was carried out by racist Germans. I was 12 and gravely effected by that tragedy. It developed my political awareness,” said Onay to German Deutsche Welle.
The Turkish-descent politican said his candidacy raised no eyebrows in Hannover as democratic culture in the city is extremely developed. “People did ask me about my backgrounds but it was inly out of curiosity not to judge. It was not a problem at all that I was a child to an immigrant family,” he said. His words brought fresh hope against dangerously increasing far-right sentiments in Germany. Xenophobic party AFD has increased its votes in every single state elections in Germany since the refugee influx into Germany.
Belit Onay reiterates that there are several important issues in Hannover awaiting to be resolved. Most important of them are perhaps more and more people having hard time financially to survive. Poverty is most ostensible among immigrants, Onay stressed.
The second round elections will take place on October 10th between Belit Onay and the CDU-supported independent candidate Eckhard Schols.