Ekrem İmamoğlu is taking office today for a second time as the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Mayor. He is likely to face resistance from within the municipality on top of that stemming from the government. Will he be able to overcome these difficulties with the support he has garnered from different segments of the society?
Translation: Melissa Clissold / Subtitles: Egemen Gök
Hello, good day. Today is truly a historical day, because after 25 years, the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (İBB) is really changing hands – it had already changed before, but this only lasted 18 days. Now, Ekrem İmamoğlu, is rightfully receiving the position of mayor that he deserves. There is going to be a meeting in Saraçhane at 18:30. He has also invited the public; he’s probably going to make a speech. He will have received his certificate of election, and it looks like in the upcoming periods we will be talking about İmamoğlu and his position of mayor for a long time, but also beyond this, we will be discussing his political position.
I’d like to look at what we have in hand straight away from day one: I said “difficulties and opportunities”. It’s customary to first start from the negative aspects, let’s start with the difficulties. First of all, President Erdoğan has said countless times that if Ekrem İmamoğlu is elected, they would do all that they can – if necessary, through their majority within the Municipal Council or through the opportunities they have through central management – in fact, he labelled İmamoğlu a “lame duck”; they would do anything he can in order to make sure the Istanbul Mayor could not work. Let’s see how persistent he can be. First of all, it is clear that this difficulty exists. Of course, he also mentioned his intention to punish İmamoğlu in court for the incident that took place in Ordu Airport’s VIP lounge and afterwards take back his position of mayor. From Abdülkadir Selvi’s writing we can see that the party’s Central Executive Board (MYK) also insisted upon this; but I don’t think that this will come up in the agenda in a very serious way – but it still might. There will be all sorts of ways that Central government will try and block the way – we know this. But of course, there’s something like this: How long will Erdoğan’s power last? After the results of the June 23 elections, the opportunity for Erdoğan to rule over the country alone has truly decreased.
Another difficulty: Istanbul itself. Istanbul has a lot of problems, the population is increasing continuously and there are debts from the past municipality, they must work with all this. Also, it is expected that they will make some clear changes quickly, and in order to do this, he will have to push the potential possibilities as much as he can and find suitable staff that will help him achieve what he has in mind. Personnel from a tradition of almost 25 years are nearly everywhere – companies, communions, and within the municipality. How many of these will he keep? How much will he not keep? How many people will he be able to bring? A lot of these will be followed closely and we can assume that they may try and block his way from the inside, this wouldn’t be surprising. Indeed, we know what has happened in between, some municipality employees openly came up against İmamoğlu and had some nonsensical outbursts against him, they challenged him, they arrogantly came up against him. There may be more people who would like to do this openly and they may truly create some difficulties for Ekrem İmamoğlu, there is truly such a difficulty.
Another difficulty: Istanbul, because of its size, for many, is seen as a door to income. There are always such approaches within local administrations and maybe some that wanted İmamoğlu to come into position may also have a similar sort of approach – those who want jobs, opportunities, tenders; this can be from anyone from any party who has claimed to have supported him… These factors might also cause a headache. Even if this is not the hardest challenge, it is worth noting this as a certain hardship. And of course, another difficulty: He came with a huge amount of support, İmamoğlu has suddenly become a very popular name and so, there will be a lot expected of him. If he at least tries to achieve a few of these expectations in a short amount of time, there is a high risk of him making mistakes. Therefore, he needs to keep everything in balance. Whilst meeting people’s expectations, he must make sure everything is running smoothly, he must bring to life what he has in mind. We can say that he’ll see how much the ideas he has in mind match up with the realities of life and the municipality. There are other difficulties, but there is no need to touch upon them. These are the main factors.
So, what are the opportunities? There are more opportunities; because there is an extensive amount of credit that has opened up in front of him. There is credit from different backgrounds within society. Those from the Good Party (İyi Parti) voted, those from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) clearly voted, those on the left of the CHP voted, the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) voted, some from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) voted and even some people, who were until recently supporters of the AKP, also voted. Ekrem İmamoğlu brought to life a perspective that embraced everyone and he received the fruits of his efforts in the election. Of course, he received more support from certain fractions; but we understand that people from all sorts of backgrounds and lifestyles voted for him in Istanbul. Therefore, this support provides a serious credit opportunity for him, at least for a while. He has the support of the public. He does not have the support of the media, but I am guessing that the support of the media will also slowly emerge, because some will have to wane towards it. They won’t be solely waning towards Ekrem İmamoğlu, but away from the Justice and Development Party (AKP). It may be hard as a corporation, but as individuals, they have started to let themselves be known.
Of course, this may cause a problem: There may be a lot of previously convicted people who want to jump on the bandwagon and they may force Ekrem İmamoğlu from time to time. But when we look at this from a general perspective, the most important opportunity is the wide support he has behind him. And also, the CHP – especially the CHP leadership – has adopted the view that Ekrem İmamoğlu has managed to adopt and continue on; one of embracing all of society. Maybe not everyone has absorbed this situation; but I have seen Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s clear perspective in the interview we had the Friday before the election, he has strong support from the headquarters and the Istanbul organisation. This is important on its own.
One of the greatest advantages of İmamoğlu is the fact that he is young. His experience in Beylikdüzü – even if it isn’t a primary district in Istanbul – we know its importance for him and we have seen, we got to know him during the election campaign: he is truly very dynamic. He is someone that has a lot of energy and someone that isn’t provoked so easily. We have also seen this: He has won such a hard election twice and he did this with a team. Since he managed to do this with a team, we can say this: He is someone that knows about team work. He will probably carry some of those people on his team to the municipality and if he continues with this perspective, meaning if he reflects his perspective of team work in the municipality, if he forms a collective mind within the municipality, there is not much reason for him not to be successful.
In conclusion, when we look at the general perspective, I can see that his future is bright. Not just as a mayor; but it looks like he is a name that will leave his mark in Turkish politics in the near history – he already has. In fact, he is being talked about as the potential candidate against Erdoğan for the next presidency or election of prime minister. This can be a difficulty, a disadvantage, but also an advantage. If Ekrem İmamoğlu makes the most of the advantages as opposed to the disadvantages, he may be able to turn the political expectations into opportunities. In all the election campaigns he has carried out until now – he carried out two different campaigns – he did not make any serious mistakes.
Some mistakes were made – the situation in Ordu is on its own an ambiguous story, but yet it is certain that it still didn’t do him any good. And İsmail Küçükkaya speaking with Binali Yıldırım on the phone but with İmamoğlu face to face – I doubt that Ekrem İmamoğlu actually did this, it was clearly a mistake of one of his advisors. These aren’t critical mistakes, but these show that the government in power were searching for and found the material necessary – even though it was small, it was exaggerated, yet still unsuccessful. In the period ahead, he is probably most aware of the fact that any small mistake will be used against him via the government in power, the media, perhaps even leading to jurisdiction etc. in a serious manner. Therefore, this threat, the fact that the current government in power is looking out for every mistake, is actually a good thing for Ekrem İmamoğlu. If he manages to not become paranoid, the fact that he is being watched from all four sides, from those within the municipality -Erdoğan as well-, will lead to a stronger foundation for him to carry out his work as mayor in a more careful and attentive manner.
When we look at the current situation in the way that it is, we see that the future for Ekrem İmamoğlu, who will be taking over the position as mayor, is bright. He will be able to face challenges easily. Because as the most prominent figure of a growing movement -from June 24 onwards- we see that he is continuing on his way, and also that those in power – and Erdoğan of course – who are trying to stop him, are going through a downfall. This clears the way from Ekrem İmamoğlu even more, he has a very serious wave behind him. If he can control this wave, the field will be clear for him, Istanbul municipality, his party and those that support him. Now, here, Ekrem İmamoğlu is CHP’s candidate, yet he is also the candidate of an alliance. He can do a lot to make this success, a success of the alliance.
Let’s hope for the best and look at him: What will he do? How will he do it? How far will he take this? His performance so far, shows that he’ll be able to manage. But of course, this is politics, this is the Istanbul municipality. He has not taken off his clothes for a job that is easy, he has taken his clothes off for a hard job. He probably knows these difficulties more than us, let’s wait and see.
Yes, this is all I have to say, good day.