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Most polls see İstanbul’s incumbent mayor leading against candidate from ruling AKP

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The latest surveys from six pollsters suggest that incumbent mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has a lead over Murat Kurum, a former environment minister and current lawmaker from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), ahead of the March 31 local elections.

With less than 40 days to go before Turkey’s highly anticipated local elections, İstanbul, Turkey’s economic powerhouse and largest city, is witnessing a closely watched election campaign between İmamoğlu and Kurum.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan officially announced Kurum’s nomination as the AKP’s mayoral candidate for İstanbul earlier this year, with the aim of reclaiming the city after a historic defeat in the 2019 local elections.

Erdoğan’s AKP and its predecessors, the Welfare Party (RP) and the Virtue Party (FP), had governed İstanbul for 25 years until İmamoğlu’s victory, which marked a significant shift in the city’s political landscape.

İmamoğlu’s victory in 2019 was not without controversy, as the initial election results were contested by the AKP, leading to a rerun of the election. Despite allegations of irregularities, İmamoğlu won the second round by an even greater margin.

İmamoğlu is viewed as Erdoğan’s most powerful political rival. He faces a political ban and a prison sentence for insult over his remarks about electoral authority officials in 2019 as a result of a politically charged trial, if upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Although the results vary between surveys, five out of the six recent polls show İmamoğlu leading.

Di-En Research sees İmamoğlu at 43.8 percent compared to Kurum’s 38.2 percent, and YÖNEYLEM gives İmamoğlu a clearer lead of 39.1 percent compared to Kurum’s 32.9 percent. However, one of ORC Research’s polls suggests a closer race, with Kurum slightly ahead with 37.7 percent compared to İmamoğlu’s 36.5 percent.

Kurum’s reputation suffered from the public reaction to a landslide at a gold mine in Erzincan province earlier this month that put him at the center of criticism.

The incident left nine workers trapped under 10 million cubic meters of mud and raised fears of a cyanide crisis due to the use of the chemical in gold extraction.

Environmental advocates and local officials sought to shut down the open pit mine after a cyanide leak caused by a burst pipe during Kurum’s term as environment minister in 2022.

The plant closed for a few months but then re-opened after its operator paid a fine, prompting an outcry from Turkey’s opposition parties.

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