Aug 10 2019

İmamoğlu needs inclusive social contract to lead Turkey -analyst

Istanbul’s Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, who won with his reconciliatory language towards conservatives and secular voters alike, will need to offer more if he and his main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) are to win in the general elections, said openDemocracy contributor Ahmet Erdi Öztürk on Friday.

The opposition coalition that got İmamoğlu elected included former Interior Minister Meral Akşener’s nationalist centre-right Good (İYİ) Party, and the pro-Kurdish left-wing Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who put disagreements aside to focus on the mayoral vote, the analyst recalled.

This is not a coalition that can last, however, unless İmamoğlu takes on the search of a new kind of social contract to resolve the urgent issues in Turkey, including accountability and transparency, discrimination, polarization and international isolation as well as economic solutions and the rule of law, said Öztürk.

İmamoğlu has not outright dismissed the idea of running in the general elections, however, he has underlined that he will never vie for the next post in line and that he wants to succeed at the task of being a good mayor to Istanbul.

In order to succeed, İmamoğlu will have to assure Islamic groups, who have significant power in the media and business sectors as well as bureaucracy after 17 years of Justice and Development Party (AKP) governments, that his party won’t be vindictive, said Öztürk, adding that the groups may otherwise use their power against the CHP and stick to one of the groups leaving the AKP.

İmamoğlu will also have to keep the secular, progressive and Alevi CHP voters’ frustrations at bay, said Öztürk.

Turkey has a long and occasionally bloody history of sectarian tensions where the minority Alevi faith communities have at times suffered violence at the hands of the Sunni majority, as well as day-to-day and institutional discrimination faced by minority faith groups.

One of the biggest issues that have cost the AKP a significant number of votes has been the economy, as the reforms demanded by business circles and laypeople have yet to be met, said Öztürk.

“Any prospect of reform has to couple with transparency on state resources,” Öztürk said. During his 18 days in office after the March 31 elections, İmamoğlu announced finding lavish expenses and irregularities in the allocation of public funds, and has promised to fix the problem.

The CHP is closer to power at the nation-wide scale, said Öztürk, but the founding party of the republic still “lacks an elite team of economists that would take the country out of the slow-motion economic crisis that it has been going through for the last few years.”

In the absence of such a team, the CHP will need to be able to reach the people the AKP already has access to, through national television networks and other channels.