New Beginnings in Turkey post-Istanbul Mayoral elections or Not

Gulay Icoz |

I have not commented on Turkish politics for a while now for I thought not much is changing in Turkey since 2013, except there has been a constant and continuous democratic backsliding and the reign of the Justice and Development Party for almost two decades.

What today’s Istanbul Mayoral election result represents is a critical juncture in Turkish politics, which will probably be followed by some significant changes, but I cannot predict yet what will be the nature of these changes. Only time will tell.

The newly elected Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, who was the opposition’s candidate, adopted an inclusive, constructive and, if not too simplistic to say, a friendly and a kind approach during both election campaigns and his narrative was a true reflection of this style. The style that won him votes from every corner of Istanbul.

However let’s not forget when the President Tayyip Erdogan was first elected as the Mayor of Istanbul in 1994, he represented a new beginning for Turkey, thus garnered supports from different segments of the society, from Republicans and Nationalists to Kurds and Islamists.

The common denominator, which had brought people together behind Erdogan in mid 1990s, is also what brings people of different backgrounds together behind Ekremoglu: people’ desire to live in a country where democracy is the only game in town.

Whether Imamoglu, his team and his political party have the vision to take on Turkey as a project and work hard to heal it, I don’t know.

Whether they can deliver on such a big project, I cannot say.

And whether they will maintain their friendly politics style, we have to wait and see.

I think who or which political party wins the elections are not that important under the current circumstances in Turkey.

What is vital is whether these politicians and their political parties or the alliances they formed will keep their loyalty to the principles of liberal democracy.

Or whether once they gain more political power in the coming elections, their Kemalist origins would awaken and strengthen their nationalist demons.