Ekrem Imamoglu sprung to international prominence at the end of March when he inflicted a heavy blow on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by winning the mayoralty which had been held by the strongman’s ruling party, and predecessor parties, for a quarter of a century. After election watchdog officials agreed with protests from Erdogan that the narrow victory was invalid given polling “irregularities”, a ‘revote’ was held in June—and the heavy blow became a crunching blow as İmamoglu romped home with more than 800,000 votes more than his opponent, Binali Yildirim, a former prime minister of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).
“If İmamoglu does well [as a Republican People’s Party, or CHP, mayor] the president could have a challenger on his hands in 2023 [in the next scheduled presidential election]: The mayoralty was the springboard for Erdogan’s own national political career,” Bloomberg noted.
The Istanbul defeat meant the AKP losing control of municipal budget for the business and cultural capital. Under the AKP, funds were often channelled to charitable foundations linked to the ruling establishment and pro-government companies.
A report compiled by the municipality in January showed that Turkish lira (TRY) 848mn ($146mn) had been transferred to a list of foundations during the previous two years of the AKP-led administration.
Imamoglu has declared a war on unwarranted expenditure. Lately he has complained that government banks have stopped making even routine loans to the Istanbul municipality.