Turkey’s People’s Equality and Democracy Party (HEDEP) will present its candidate for the Istanbul mayoral elections today.
Current mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu announced that he will be running for re-election. However, Turkey’s opposition alliance which rallied together in 2019 to secure his victory has fractured after being defeated in last May’s presidential race. Additionally, Imamoğlu’s Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the HEDEP had fierce exchanges recently over the CHP leader’s half-hearted support for respected Kurdish politicians who were imprisoned.
As the incumbent candidate, İmamoğlu may be the opposition’s best chance of maintaining control over Istanbul but the general election loss in May has resulted in disillusionment and frustration from voters.
The uncertainty around support for İmamoğlu potentially favors Murat Kurum, who belongs to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). A recent poll shows that 54% of Kurdish voters would continue to support İmamoğlu, but only 33% thought he should not run for re-election. As the Kurdish population takes up around 18% of Istanbul’s total population, the HEDEP’s parting is a major blow to İmamoğlu’s chances at re-election. Critics have voiced concerns about the possibility of HEDEP striking a deal with the AKP in exchange for the release of Selahattin Demirtas, HEDEP’s co-president who has been jailed since 2016. However, the point can only be verified after the election.
Evan Tsao is an Analyst for Foreign Brief and a contributor to The Daily Brief. His expertise is in Indo-Pacific security and interdisciplinary research. He formerly worked as investigative analyst at Kharon, LA, conducting research on sanctions and providing open-source intelligence services for clients in the semiconductor and defense industries. He holds a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.