Istanbul municipal election: secular and solid

Ekrem İmamoglu is likely to become mayor of Istanbul. The 49-year-old is not a party ideologue, but a pragmatic local politician.

Opposition candidate Ekrem İmamoglu is successful because he can integrate well Photo: reuters

As election night threatened to tip Sunday night into Monday, Ekrem İmamoglu, the opposition candidate for mayor of Istanbul, appeared several times on the nation’s TV screens, exhorting members of the election commission to be fair and decent. Do not allow any manipulation of the election results, was his credo on election night.

When the election commission then actually announced on Monday morning that İmamoglu was narrowly in the lead in Istanbul, contrary to the claims of his powerful opponent, ex-Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, this was perhaps also due in part to his unbending attitude and unconditional correctness on election night. After all, 49-year-old Ekrem İmamoglu is not a party ideologue, but a rock-solid, pragmatic local politician who knows how to win people over.

Before running for mayor, he served for five years as district mayor of Istanbul’s satellite town of Beylikduzu, one of the city’s faceless suburbs that has grown enormously over the past 20 years. Like his great opponent Recep Tayyip Erdogan, İmamoglu also comes from the Black Sea; his father founded a small construction company and a small Kofte restaurant in the newly developed suburb in the 1990s. Like Erdogan, he played soccer successfully in his youth and was temporarily on the board of the first division club Trabzun-Spor. Ekrem İmamoglu seems staid at first glance, but he burns for his job.

He only became the district chairman of the Social Democratic CHP in Beylikduzu in 2009, and already in 2014 he succeeded in clearly winning the former AKP stronghold in the local elections. He was successful as district mayor, having parks built and creating community facilities that gave the district a face. Nevertheless, he was a widely unknown surprise candidate at the beginning of the election campaign. He played no role in the upper ranks of the CHP and was not involved in internal party intrigues.

He appears incorruptible and modest

Ekrem İmamoglu is successful because he can integrate well. He is personally religious, but stands for the secular republic. He comes across as incorruptible and modest, yet self-confident. With his wife and three children, he is the perfect example of a successful modern family that has worked its way up from below through its own efforts. For the AKP, he is therefore a dangerous opponent. The "terror" defamations of Erdogan bounce off İmamogu (his name also means son of the imam). No one who has seen him in office or on the rostrum believes that this man is in league with the PKK.

It will take a few more days to decide whether Ekrem İmamoglu will actually become the mayor of Turkey’s largest metropolis. But he is already the winner of Istanbul.

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