Istanbul, Turkey – The main opposition Istanbul mayoral candidate, Ekrem Imamoglu, has kicked off his campaign for the June 23 rerun elections in the city, pledging to win again after the first vote was ruled invalid.
Addressing a packed out conference room in the Hilton hotel on Wednesday, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate called for his supporters to “join in the struggle for democracy.”
“With hope and love we will win again in the elections,” Imamoglu told a cheering crowd of supporters.
Istanbul, Turkey‘s largest city and commercial hub, is preparing for a rerun of the mayoral vote first held on March 31.
Turkey’s High Election Board (YSK) annulled the vote in early May, scheduling a new election for June 23.
The AK Party also lost mayoral votes in the capital Ankara and Izmir, the country’s third-largest city.
Focus on economy
At the CHP election campaign launch, Imamoglu gave an emotional speech, touching on the theme of democracy.
“We will put our signature on the history of democracy in Turkey,” Imamoglu declared.
“On June 23 the system of extravagance will come to an end, everything will be very good again,” he said, using his campaign slogan.
The launch focused on the economy, high poverty rates and government transparency. The party has vowed to fight urban poverty and issue discounts on water prices and transport fees for students.
Imamoglu pointed to the current economic situation in Turkey, which has slipped into a recession for the first time in a decade, saying it stems from the “extravagance” of elites.
“All the resources of Istanbul are shared by a small minority, those people always want more … and it is seen in their properties and real estate worth millions of Turkish lira,” he said.
“I want an urban economy which is managed fairly and which looks after families,” he said.
Green spaces, fair distribution
Imamoglu will face the same AK Party candidate who he narrowly defeated in the March 31 vote, former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim of the ruling AK Party.
Tugay Tasci, a 23-year-old theology student, told Al Jazeera that he voted for Yildirim first time and remained impressed by the former prime minister.
“[He] has been running several jobs in the country, most of the grand projects, such as railways opened in the south of Turkey, airports and metros. All the transportation for the last four years were built by Yildirim,” he told Al Jazeera by telephone.
“He’s genuine and promising in terms of what he says … He said he would open green corridors, so you can breathe more … I want to see a more green city … I think he can manage to do that.”
For Ferhan Yalcin, a 35-year-old dentist living in the Sisli neighbourhood, equality is one of the most important issues in the upcoming election rerun.
“Our money in the city government, I want it to be given equally for everyone,” Yalcin said while sitting outside a local cafe.
Yalcın did not vote in the March 31 election, though plans to vote for CHP next month.
“This time, I believe I have to, because I believe Imamoglu won and they took it away from him.”