CHP’s Istanbul candidate praised for diverse appeal

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) announced today its candidates for three key cities in Turkey in the local elections to be held cross the country in March.

Ekrem İmamoğlu, a name not known to many, will be the CHP’s candidate for Istanbul. İmamoğlu is currently the mayor of İstanbul’s Beylikdüzü district, a relatively new neighbourhood on the European side of the city.

Before İmamoğlu’s nomination, Ahval talked to residents of Beylikdüzü, who evaluated their district mayor’s performance.

Atilla, a 61-year-old who has been a resident of Beylikdüzü since 1999, said people were happy in the “comfortable and peaceful” district, where property prices have increased ten-fold in the last decade.

“The streets are cleaner since the CHP won the local elections,” he said, inviting supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to come and see.

Atilla also had his criticisms against the district mayor, and said he had mixed feelings about the possibility of İmamoğlu becoming a candidate for Istanbul.

“I have things to criticise, but when Mr. Ekrem became the mayor, he could not do anything because he had to pay back millions of liras in debt,” he said. “I did not see any positions assigned to party members as favours. Of course, some neighbourhoods developed more compared to others. But I believe, if they continue what is being done, those neighbourhoods will also develop.”

“The mayor is not a person who acts on an ideological basis, he is service-focused and does not differentiate people. I hope he will be the mayor of Istanbul,” he said.

Elvan moved to Beylikdüzü seven years ago, hoping for a quieter and more peaceful place to live. She mostly criticises the problems of infrastructure, saying that life almost completely stops in the district whenever it snows.

“Yet, to be fair, I should say he has done many things. There was no place to sit outside before, now everywhere is full of cafes frequented by decent people, parks. He invests in young people. He opens cultural centres, takes young people’s views into account,” she said.

Hazal and İlkay are a young couple who moved to Beylikdüzü in 2006. They chose the district for its relatively cheap rent. However, after their financial situation got better, they chose to buy a house in Beylikdüzü.

The couple, who witnessed the performances of both AKP and CHP mayors, complain mostly about problems in transportation.

“The mayor is not a traditional CHP type of guy,” Hazal said. “I think Mr. Ekrem can reach all groups. Many people around me who vote for the AKP, vote CHP in Beylikdüzü. I think he is neutral,” she said.

İlkay is happy with the new planning of the coastline and notes that the municipality has been implementing many projects for children. Yet he is unhappy that chances of finding employment inside the district remain very low, and people have to commute long hours to reach their workplaces in other parts of the city.

“I like the seaside. In the past it was damp and dirty, nobody went there. Now it is all green. Instead of going to the Bosphorus for breakfast, I go to my own local seaside. I lay on the grass,” he said.

“Everyone should do their own job, the party is not important. I would be happy if our car does not get stranded when it snows. Our infrastructure problems continue, though they are decreasing. Especially in neighbourhoods that are not at the centre,” İlkay said.

Adem is a visually impaired resident of Beylikdüzü who earns his living as a street vendor. “I am happy as long as the municipal police do not touch me. I have no other expectation from this life. We have problems in general in Turkey. They are not specific to the district,” he said.

His wife Hatice thinks that no politician, independent of their party, thinks about the people. She does not think İmamoğlu has done enough for older and retired people.

“We were very hopeful when he was first elected. But I think the former mayor was better. The district has now become a place where rich and elite people live,” she said. “I think the AKP will win here and will take care of people like us who have financial troubles.”

Yavuz is a supporter of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. “He is only doing PR, he does not do much in reality. He just opens this and that,” he said about İmamoğlu.

“I believe if someone from the ruling party is elected, everything will be different and it will be a better place,” Yavuz said. “But I don’t think he is stealing. He did good things for young people, but I want the AKP to win in Istanbul and Beylikdüzü, because I love Erdoğan.”

Yavuz’s son Görkem opposes his father and thinks İmamoğlu is the right candidate for İstanbul.

“Nobody wants to come here, but when they come, they cannot leave. Because cultural centres have been opened, there are book fairs. The cafes are very beautiful. We do not need to go to the city centre anymore. Here it is cheaper and more peaceful,” he said.

“All of this has happened after the CHP won here,” he said. “People, including my father, dislike him because he is from the CHP. He has suffered a lot to end the frauds and debts of the former mayor from the AKP. I support Ekrem İmamoğlu for a more cultured Istanbul. That is my dream.”