İmamoğlu says will win Istanbul election by overcoming division

Ekrem İmamoğlu, declared winner of the March election for Istanbul mayor before the result was overturned, said he would win the June 23 rerun on by overcoming division and embracing pluralism.

The awe-inspiring energy of citizens will show that it is possible to stand against authoritarian power, İmamoğlu said in an op-ed for the Washington Post published on Tuesday.

“In today’s Turkey, any politician who listens to ordinary people candidly quickly sees the reality of the situation: If you aren’t talking about how to overcome economic difficulties and social injustices, people won’t listen,” İmamoğlu said.

“Citizens don’t have the time or the interest in large-scale engineering projects or big investment strategies. You have to focus instead on urban poverty and injustice.”

İmamoğlu beat Binali Yıldırım, the candidate for the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) and an ex-prime minister, in the March 31 election. Seventeen days later, the election board overturned the result, ordering a rerun, after it agreed with the AKP that irregularities occurred in voting. İmamoğlu won by little more than 13,000 votes in the city of some 15 million people.

İmamoğlu, who represents the Republican People’s Party (CHP), said the AKP dominates the media landscape in the country, meaning the only way to beat the incumbents is to engage directly with ordinary voters. He said he made video clips of those conversations and published them on social media.

As mayor of the culturally diverse Beylikdüzü district of Istanbul, İmamoğlu said he learned that it was possible to overcome the barriers of distrust and hostility that are created by the politics of fear.

“True resilience requires overcoming divisions through dialogue and consultation with the people — lessons that have applicability well beyond Turkey,” İmamoğlu said. “Pluralism is not our enemy, either here at home or in the world outside. We must embrace it and play to the strength that diversity brings.”