Ekrem Imamoğlu, the Istanbul mayor and rising secular rival to Erdoğan

Ekrem Imamoğlu, the Istanbul mayor and rising secular rival to Erdoğan

The affable father of three has the identical roots as Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, however says ‘our concepts are largely reverse’

Newly re-elected Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu has emerged as the primary challenger to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s reign, after warding off the Turkish president’s AK social gathering in native elections.

After clinching a cushty victory and retaining his publish in Sunday’s mayoral elections, primarily based on the overwhelming majority of votes counted, Imamoğlu, 53, is seen by many analysts as a possible future president.

He shares many similarities with Erdoğan: they’ve each led Istanbul, have household roots within the japanese Black Sea area and their political careers have been impeded by Turkey’s courts. Of their youth, each have been eager footballers too.

The lads each have a robust capability to enchantment to voters, however they diverge on the subject of their politics. Imamoğlu, an affable former businessman who’s married with three kids, himself has stated: “Our concepts are largely reverse.”

Erdoğan entered politics with an Islamist social gathering and has reshaped the secular state since taking the reins in 2002. In distinction, Imamoğlu is from the staunchly secularist Republican Folks’s social gathering (CHP), becoming a member of in 2008 and turning into a mayor in Istanbul’s Beylikduzu district in 2014.

Imamoğlu’s success is because of his capability to broaden the social democratic CHP’s enchantment to draw extra conservative voters.

He proved that in 2019, delivering Erdoğan’s AK social gathering (AKP) its greatest defeat in twenty years and beating its candidate not as soon as however twice. A court docket annulled his March victory that 12 months, just for him to win by a bigger margin in a re-run election in June.

The Istanbul mayor has crafted a media picture and run viral social media campaigns, that each raised his profile and acquired on the nerves of many citizens.

State media, in the meantime, has sought to painting him in a damaging mild. In January 2022, pro-government media have been awash with surveillance digicam pictures of him eating with the British ambassador at a fish restaurant whereas Istanbul battled a snowstorm. The pictures performed into the federal government’s portrayal of the mayor as out-of-touch and western-backed.

His troubles have been compounded by Erdoğan taking credit score for lots of the necessary tasks which have modernised Istanbul over latest years.

Imamoğlu himself has confronted judicial woes. After his 2019 win, a choose sentenced him to 2 and a half years in jail, imposing a political ban for insulting public officers. The appeals court docket is but to rule on the case.

The conviction echoed the expertise of Erdoğan, who was briefly jailed in 1999 for reciting a poem {that a} court docket dominated was an incitement to spiritual hatred. Final 12 months, one other court docket opened a case in opposition to Imamoğlu on a cost of tender rigging that carries a sentence of three to seven years. Erdoğan’s critics see the circumstances as an try and hinder him politically. Erdogan and his AKP deny this.

Regardless of what he describes as obstacles from Ankara, Imamoğlu stated his administration has delivered providers and growth in Istanbul, a metropolis of 16 million that drives Turkey’s financial system.

The metropolis is a world away from the Black Sea province of Trabzon the place he was born in 1970 and spent what he describes as a contented childhood amid its “lush inexperienced nature, tough sea and stone streets”.

He studied at Istanbul College and graduated in enterprise administration in 1994 – the 12 months Erdoğan turned mayor – earlier than going into his household’s building enterprise. His love of soccer pushed him to turn out to be an administrator along with his dwelling city group in Trabzon.

Imamoğlu not too long ago recalled the mundane setting the place he and Erdoğan first crossed paths. Within the mid-Nineties after Erdoğan turned mayor, he visited the meatball restaurant that the younger Imamoğlu was working in Istanbul’s Gungoren district.

“When he was in his first months as mayor I hosted him,” Imamoğlu stated. “He ate meatballs in my restaurant. I didn’t take his cash. He received’t pay that
invoice so long as he lives.”

Many analysts now forecast additional success for Imamoğlu. “[If] this election is just not cancelled by objections in a roundabout way, he’ll turn out to be the president in 2028,” Ozer Sencar, head of pollster Metropoll, informed Reuters earlier than the election.

With Reuters and Agence France-Presse

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