The rise of Ekrem İmamoğlu as a new generation politician
The local elections are over, although the announcement of the final results will take some time because of the appeal processes launched by the political parties in the constituencies they lost. All eyes will continue to be on Istanbul, as the gap between the two main contenders, the opposition’s Ekrem İmamoğlu and the government’s candidate Binali Yıldırım, is less than 25,000 votes.
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) argues that a number of irregularities detected in the counting and registering of the counted votes in Istanbul, with calls for the Supreme Election Board (YSK) to deal with the matter in the most serious and cautious way. In return, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) dispatched all of its senior officials and Istanbul MPs to the election boards in every district of Istanbul where the ballot papers and election documents are kept.
It’s believed that the appeal process requires at least a few weeks before the YSK is ready to announce the final results.
The results of the local elections do tell a lot of new things about Turkish politics. Of the two big alliances that run for elections, the Nation Alliance between the CHP and the İYİ (Good) Party increased their votes and the number of municipalities. But the CHP has benefited much more than its partner as it re-gained Istanbul and Ankara after 25 years and won all the cities along the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts.
On the People’s Alliance front, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) seems to be at an advantage as it has nearly doubled the number of municipalities it runs, while the AKP has become the loser of this alliance.
So many factors can be cited while analyzing the election results, like the impact of the worsened economy and the AKP’s overexploitation of nationalist sentiments by placing the issue of the “survival of the nation” matter in front of every other fundamental problem of the ordinary people.
But there is another parameter: The candidates.
As these were local elections – although in the form of general elections - the profile of candidates represented by the parties mattered to a large extent, particularly in large metropoles.
CHP chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu preferred to nominate İmamoğlu for Istanbul, Tunç Soyer for İzmir, Mansur Yavaş for Ankara, Muhittin Böcek for Antalya and Zeydan Karalar for Adana. One mutual characteristic of all these men is the fact that they were the mayors of a district in their respective provinces and are well-known for the success in their own cities.
İmamoğlu, Yavaş, and Karalar are not standard social democrat figures. They have bonds and dialogue with different political party groups in their constituencies.
The AKP’s nominations for these cities were more different. The AKP presented a former prime minister and former parliament speaker, Binali Yıldırım, for Istanbul, former Urbanization Minister Mehmet Özhaseki for Ankara and former Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci for İzmir.
In other words, while the CHP was in efforts to introduce new, young and dynamic names, the AKP preferred to use its strongmen who are already severely exhausted. It’s no secret that Yıldırım never really wanted to run for Istanbul and this has been reflected on his face and onto his election campaign.
As a matter of fact, Kılıçdaroğlu took a risk by placing İmamoğlu against Yıldırım. His critics were suggesting that although İmamoğlu made a good reputation in Beylikdüzü district since 2014, he was unknown to the rest of the 10 million residents of Istanbul.
It was, of course, İmamoğlu’s advantage that he was presented as the candidate of an alliance which was supported by the voters of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). But it was his ability to reach out to all these groups and communicate with them in an orderly way so that they would all together go to cast their votes on Sunday.
Having been raised in a middle-class family from the Black Sea province of Trabzon, which has both a religious and nationalist profile, İmamoğlu does not look like any other elitist social democrat politician. He seems to have a very good opportunity to strengthen his image in the entire Turkey as a new generation politician and to move forward in his career if he can be a successful mayor to Istanbul.