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Who is Ekrem Imamoglu, the Turkish mayor who could challenge Erdogan – Times of India

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Newly re-elected Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu has emerged as the main challenger to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan‘s reign. However, in some aspects, Imamoglu’s career mirrors that of Erdogan, particularly their shared beginnings in Istanbul’s political scene during the 1990s, their origins from the eastern Black Sea region, legal challenges faced in their political careers, and a passion for football in their youth.
Imamoglu, aged 53, secured his position convincingly in the recent mayoral elections, hinting at his potential for national leadership.His political ideology, however, stands in stark contrast to Erdogan’s. A self-described opponent to Erdogan’s policies, Imamoglu hails from the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP), significantly diverging from Erdogan’s Islamist roots and vision for a religiously guided state.
Imamoglu won 50.6% of the votes in Istanbul, while AKP candidate Murat Kurum, a former urbanization and environment minister, received 40.5%, according to Anadolu. Opinion polls had pointed to a close race between the two.
“This is more than a mayoral election, it is consigning a mentality to history,” Imamoglu said during campaigning. “If it is consigned to history, democracy will revive…and law and justice will recover.” Erdogan’s critics say Turkey’s judiciary, civil rights and press freedoms have been eroded under his watch, charges the government denies.
The Istanbul Mayor’s rise signifies a breakthrough for the CHP, transcending its traditional base to attract conservative votes, marking a significant defeat for Erdogan’s AK Party (AKP) in Istanbul. Imamoglu’s re-election campaign was marked by a promise of reviving democracy and justice in Turkey, a country where critics argue civil liberties have been in decline under Erdogan.
Despite facing legal hurdles, including a prison sentence and political ban for allegedly insulting public officials—a charge still under appeal—Imamoglu has remained a significant figure in Turkish politics. His journey from a businessman and family man to a potential future president has been punctuated by victories over the AKP, promising a new direction for Turkey’s largest city and possibly the country.
The opposition’s recent celebration in Istanbul underscores the growing discontent with the ruling party’s economic policies, signaling a desire for change among Turkish voters. Imamoglu’s leadership in Istanbul, his defiance against judicial pressures, and his vision for a more democratic and just Turkey have positioned him as a formidable opponent to Erdogan.
(With inputs from agencies)

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