İstanbul’s popular opposition mayor on Tuesday said his party should stop internal conflicts and focus on the local elections next year as he revealed his intention to run for mayor again, Agence France-Presse reported.
Ekrem İmamoğlu has become one of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s main rivals since winning İstanbul in the 2019 electoral race, bringing an end to the decades-long ruling party domination of Turkey’s largest city.
The ambitious politician, however, disagreed with Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who was defeated by Erdoğan in the presidential vote in May, calling for change within the opposition party.
That sparked rumors that he would run for the party leadership rather than İstanbul.
At Tuesday’s conference, İmamoğlu did not clearly say he would be running as a candidate for İstanbul in the March local elections but said winning İstanbul was tantamount to winning Turkey.
“I am setting out to win İstanbul again. I am setting out to create a prosperous city,” he said.
“The fates of İstanbul and Turkey are sealed. Therefore, I consider myself sealed with İstanbul,” he added.
He clarified, however, that it would “not be politically correct” to say that he would be a candidate.
“I will do my best to establish the İstanbul alliance between the [opposition] parties,” İmamoğlu said.
The 52-year-old, who is battling a court case, was officially barred from politics after being convicted in December of “insulting a public official” and sentenced to nearly three years in prison.
İmamoğlu appealed and can still serve as mayor.
But the possibility of a higher court upholding the sentence effectively ruled him out of running against Erdoğan in the May election.