By AFP – Jun 20,2019 –
ISTANBUL — He does not like fighting, preaches reconciliation rather than confrontation, and campaigns through social media rather than television.
That approach has made Ekrem Imamoglu, the opposition candidate in this week’s rerun vote for Istanbul mayor, the antithesis of the man who has dominated Turkish politics for much of the past two decades: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Throughout his career, Erdogan has made a virtue of political street-fighting, often accusing opponents of links to terror groups or seeking to undermine the country.
Imamoglu seems to have come from nowhere in the last few months with a radically different approach: “I have never fought in my life but have never been beaten either,” he tells rallies.
In a country deeply divided between secularists and religious conservatives, Imamoglu’s decision to use unifying rhetoric has been a breath of fresh air for many voters.
It is starkly different from the style of previous figures from his Republican People’s Party (CHP).
In 2018, for example, when the CHP’s Muharrem Ince challenged Erdogan in the presidential election, his tough-talking oratory was taken straight out of his opponent’s playbook.
‘I see hope’
Even after being controversially stripped of his narrow victory in the March mayoral election — forcing this Sunday’s rerun — Imamoglu has still tried to keep the mood positive.
That decision by the election authorities followed claims of “serious corruption” by Erdogan, whose political party and its predecessors have controlled the metropolis for 25 years.
Despite huge anger among his supporters, Imamoglu did not call people out on to the streets, although there were some small protests. Intead, he vowed to fight to get back “what we have already won”.
“There is no need for protests or that kind of action. This is not our method,” he told AFP in an interview. “We will fight for democracy at the ballot box.”