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Turkey: Istanbul mayor Imamoglu targets Kilicdaroglu following electoral defeat

Imamoglu says sweeping change is needed at the main opposition party CHP to stand a chance at mayoral elections, but the party's leader gives no hint of resigning
Backdropped by a poster of Kemal Kilicdaroglu, left, and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, right, Ekrem Imamoglu poses for a photo in 2019 (AP)
Ekrem Imamoglu poses for a photo against a backdrop of a poster of Kemal Kilicdaroglu (left) and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (right) in 2019 (AP)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

In the wake of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's comfortable win in the 28 May presidential runoff election, Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu has called for a sweeping change within the main opposition, the Republican People's Party (CHP).

Imamoglu, who indirectly criticised CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu during a news conference on Wednesday, asserted that superficial adjustments, such as dissolving and renewing the party's central management committee, would be insufficient to achieve meaningful transformation.

"Lamentably, we have lost three consecutive elections in nine years, including the presidential election," Imamoglu said. "We cannot afford to repeat the same mistakes and succumb to negligence. The CHP stands as the most significant political party in the history of the republic."

Imamoglu insisted there was a need for a comprehensive overhaul at all levels of the party, and stressed his demand for change. He said there was societal clamour for transformation within the CHP, and put himself forward as the person to spearhead the change.

Imamoglu recently met with Kilicdaroglu to communicate his perspectives on the party's need for a post-election revamp. However, Kilicdaroglu downplayed the significance of their meeting during a recent interview, which was perceived as a lack of urgency in addressing the challenges faced by the CHP.

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Calls for Kilicdaroglu's resignation are intensifying among pundits in the opposition media, as he has yet to provide a comprehensive account of the factors that led to defeat in the presidential election and parliamentary polls held two weeks earlier.

Nevertheless, Kilicdaroglu has shown no indication of stepping down from his position.

Sources close to Kilicdaroglu told Middle East Eye that he intends to retain his post until the mayoral elections in a year's time, where he hopes to oversee the continuity of his grand alliance among opposition parties, including the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democracy Party (HDP).

This unifying strategy previously enabled the opposition to secure victory in major cities such as Istanbul and Ankara in 2019. However, it appeared to backfire in last month's elections.

Prominent journalist Ismail Saymaz, known for leaning towards the opposition, emphasised in an article on Tuesday that Kilicdaroglu should address the concerns voiced by opposition voters, including those raised by Imamoglu.

Saymaz wrote: "Kilicdaroglu informed Imamoglu on Sunday that he would prefer to hold a general convention after the municipal elections. However, Kilicdaroglu neglected to include anyone close to Imamoglu in his newly formed central management committee. Instead, he consolidated support for himself by appointing young individuals who exercise tight control over the party organisation."

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