Who’s Istanbul Mayor Imamoglu who gained an enormous victory in Turkey's native elections?


The opposition in Turkey has claimed a major victory over President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in local elections, with the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) claiming victory in the major cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. Have done.

According to the Daily Sabah newspaper, in the final count after Sunday's voting, the CHP won 37.8 percent of the ballots cast, followed by the AK Party with less than 35.5 percent.

Istanbul's CHP mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu, defeated AK Party candidate and former Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum with more than 51 percent of the vote to capture the city. Erdogan, 70, was born and raised in Istanbul and served as its mayor in the 1990s, so the defeat was seen as a personal blow.

Who is Ekrem Imamoglu?

Imamoglu, 53, was elected mayor of Istanbul – Turkey's economic hub and largest city with 16 million people – in 2019, ending 25 years of rule by the AK Party and its conservative predecessors.

Imamoglu's career mirrors that of Erdogan: both began their political careers in Istanbul in the 1990s and were hampered by legal issues.

Imamoglu is from the secularist CHP, joining in 2008 and becoming mayor of Istanbul's Beylikdüzü district 10 years ago.

Before going into his family's construction business, he studied business administration at Istanbul University and graduated in 1994, the year Erdogan became mayor.

Erdogan entered politics with the Islamist Welfare Party and founded the AK Party in 2001, on whose ticket he became prime minister in late 2002.

In 2022, Imamoglu was sentenced to two years and seven months in prison for insulting Turkey's Supreme Electoral Council and banned from politics. He has appealed the case, but the appeals court has not yet ruled.

The allegations stem from Imamoglu's first mayoral victory. The AK Party complained of “irregularities”, leading to a re-election. Imamoglu, who won for the second time, described the cancellation of the first round as “stupidity”.

The mayor denied insulting the electoral council members by the comment and said he was responding to Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, who had called Imamoglu a “fool” and accused him of criticizing Turkey.

Imamoglu was seen as a strong potential challenger against Erdogan in the 2023 presidential race, but he did not run and Erdogan won, taking 52 percent of the vote against CHP rival Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

Where has CHP declared victory?

CHP candidates won in 35 of Turkey's 81 provinces, including Antalya, Denizli and Izmir.

In addition to Imamoglu's victory being declared in Istanbul, CHP Mayor Mansur Yavaş also took over the capital, Ankara, defeating his opponent, veteran politician Turgut Altinok, with just over 60 percent of the vote.

Are the results surprising?

In the May 2023 presidential election, the opposition attempted to remove Erdogan and his AK Party from power. The CHP had hoped to stand a chance against Erdogan after domestic economic turmoil and a devastating February 2023 earthquake in southern Turkey.

The efforts failed as Erdogan won another five-year presidency and the AK Party-led coalition won a majority in parliament, dealing a blow to the CHP and the opposition.

After last year's elections, the nationalist IYI, or Good, party split from the CHP, and a Kurdish-centric party, now named the DEM Party, ran its own candidates against the CHP in local elections, which He didn't in 2019. ,

Opinion polls ahead of Sunday's vote had indicated that the AK Party would make a strong showing, but that did not happen.

How did the opposition maintain its gains?

There is growing discontent in Turkey due to economic decline, which has resulted in nearly 70 percent inflation and a rise in the cost of living.

Analysts speculated that the AK Party performed worse than anticipated due to Imamoglu's appeal beyond the economy and the CHP's secular base in Istanbul.

“The economy is probably the number one issue in these elections,” said Vehbi Besan, an assistant professor at Ibn Haldun University in Istanbul.

What was the reaction?

Opposition supporters lit torches and waved flags in Istanbul celebrating the victory.

An Istanbul voter told Al Jazeera's Sinem Kosoglu: “We love our mayor very much. He is fair and treats everyone equally. He stopped corruption. He spends Istanbul's money on Istanbul.”

But supporters of the AK candidate were unhappy, saying Kurum stood by them.

How did Erdogan react?

Speaking from the balcony of the presidential palace, Erdogan said his party had suffered “losses” across Turkey and that the people had given a “message”.

“Unfortunately, nine months after our victory in the May 28 elections, we did not get the results we wanted in the local election test,” Erdogan said. “We will correct our mistakes and overcome our shortcomings.”

He promised to carry forward the economic program launched last year aimed at tackling inflation.

What will happen next?

Some observers have predicted that these local elections will give Imamoglu the support he needs to follow in Erdogan's footsteps, rising from mayor of Istanbul to president of Turkey in the 2028 race.

Erdogan has indicated that he will not run for a fourth term in 2028, nor is he eligible to run, according to the current constitution.

However, Ahmet Kasim Han, a professor of political science at Istanbul's Beykoz University, said ahead of the local elections: “If Murad Kurum loses and Ekrem Imamoglu wins, it would be better for Erdogan himself in 2028 rather than having to go through the trouble. Will force you to run.” To choose a choice.”

Daily Sabah editorial coordinator Mehmet Celik told an episode of Al Jazeera's Inside Story on Sunday that Erdogan could run for a second term if parliament calls snap elections or changes to the constitution are passed.

Han estimated that hypothetical snap elections would take place “very close to 2028”.

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