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HomeHeadlineTurkey's Political Chessboard: The Rising Significance of Demirtaş and İmamoğlu

Turkey’s Political Chessboard: The Rising Significance of Demirtaş and İmamoğlu

The current political landscape may be misleading, but Turkey has produced two leaders in recent tumultuous times who will be talked about for years to come: Selahattin Demirtaş and Ekrem İmamoğlu.

One is imprisoned, and the other is facing a threat of a political ban, but their positions are unchanged.

After a break from politics following the general elections, Demirtaş is back in the game. His wife Başak Demirtaş’s candidacy in Istanbul is being discussed. Whether DEM Party nominates her or not, and regardless of their agreements with CHP in some districts, the Başak Demirtaş factor has already marked the election. Yet, she has no chance of decision-making.


The current mayor and strongest candidate, Ekrem İmamoğlu, has both advantages and disadvantages.

His advantage is managing Istanbul for 5 years, defeating Erdoğan twice in 2019, and progressing unscathed towards 2028.

His disadvantage is being alone this time. All opposition parties, previously openly supportive, are now fielding alternative candidates. This, seemingly a disadvantage, is also an advantage.

A victory against the united forces of the state, government, and opposition would be much more valuable than in 2019. It would be a personal triumph and make him the clear frontrunner for 2028.


If İmamoğlu loses, Erdoğan would kill two birds with one stone: winning Istanbul and eliminating his 2028 rival.

However, political circles, for biological reasons, do not expect this. Frankly, neither do I. But my political calculations differ. Post-Erdoğan Turkey won’t be a rose garden without thorns.


If İmamoğlu loses, his political story will suffer greatly. Here, I must open a parenthesis about the Kurdish electorate and DEM Party’s stance…

In the second round of the presidential election on May 28, 2023, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, if victorious, had promised to give 3 ministries, including the Ministry of Interior, to the racist Victory Party. Ümit Özdağ revealed a signed protocol, and the other side did not deny it.

The Kurdish electorate was unaware and voted for someone who promised to bind the gendarmerie and police to a Kurdish-hostile center. They did not say “Okay” this time to situations like ‘Alavere dalavere Kurdish Memed on guard,’ that’s all.


In the Istanbul elections, the biggest handicap for Ekrem İmamoğlu will be ballot security. The opposition forces came out clean from the double elections in 2019. Whether it will happen this time is doubtful.

Ballot security was problematic in Ankara, but Mansur Yavaş won despite missing votes, outperforming his rival.

Campaigns only go so far; voters know why they will or will not vote for someone. To win, they must:

-Draw the disgruntled voters to the ballot boxes.

-Protect the ballot papers and signed records.


The two lone leaders are facing off for the first time, and this is their third match. You might ask why Erdoğan should be alone:

-He has support from MHP and other small parties.

-State resources are mobilized for Istanbul.

-TRT, AA, and all affiliated media are promoting the AKP candidate, while İmamoğlu is ignored.

You can add more factors. However, for Erdoğan, Istanbul is not a sure win. He’s not certain of it.

This uncertainty is why in the lottery for party positions on the ballot, among 35 parties, AKP drew the first spot. Erdoğan was also first on the 2023 presidential ballot. The probability of these two events happening together is simple: 1 in 140.

The election is on a knife-edge, and even Erdoğan needs the top spot on the ballot.

You might say “AKP is very fortunate,” that’s up to you.

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