Apr 22 2019

Istanbul’s new mayor has rolled up his sleeves to serve city - The Guardian

Istanbul’s new mayor, Ekrem İmamoğlu, after delivering one of the biggest challenges to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s grip on the country in years, is ready to serve the city and dismisses any idea of a rerun of votes, wrote Bethan McKernan and Gökçe Saraçoğlu in the Guardian.

The March 31 local elections proved to be an unexpected watershed moment in Turkish politics, the Guardian said, noting that despite almost blanket pro-government media coverage, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost both Istanbul and capital Ankara, breaking Islamist parties’ control of the two cities for the first time in a quarter of a century.

It was strange for someone other than Erdoğan to be the focal point of thousands of people as they gathered to celebrate with red Turkish flags in Istanbul’s Maltepe district on Sunday.

The loss has been particularly painful loss for the president with his AKP his alleging ballot box fraud and asking Turkey’s electoral board for a rerun proposed for June 2.

While technically speaking, the fight for control of the city is not over, İmamoğlu is settling well into his new city hall, the Guardian article said.

“I am not feeling any pressure,” it quoted İmamoğlu as saying. “There are 16 million people in this city waiting for me to serve them and do the job I was elected to do. We need to work together and we can walk this road to success.”

It is his inclusive and conciliatory rhetoric that won Imamoglu the polls, the article said, as the 49-year-old ‘’strikes a tone very different to that of the firebrand politicians who have come to dominate Turkey’s polarised political scene.’’

“I don’t believe the public accepts divisive rhetoric and discriminatory policies. Populism has the upper hand in the world at the moment, but it will end eventually. Treating people with respect always wins out,” İmamoğlu said.

The CHP mayor entered local politics in 2009 and in 2014 was voted mayor of Istanbul’s Beylikdüzü district, the only seat gained by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Virtually unknown to the rest of the city, “İmamoğlu’s victory puts him at the forefront of resurgent social democratic movements around the world,’’ the Guardian article said.

Amid an ongoing debate over the polls, İmamoğlu’s team was finally given access to city hall 17 days after the elections.

As the new mayor of Istanbul made his first address to municipality workers, he said, “I don’t want to be worshipped or feared. I just want you to work alongside me so we can do the best possible job for the people who elected us.”