Turkish municipal elections: Erdogan instructs former minister to win back Istanbul

With less than three months to go before the municipal elections in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unveiled on Sunday 7 January the name of the AKP candidate for the country's largest city, Istanbul. He is Murat Kurum, a former minister and current MP for the president's party.

If Murat Kurum (L) is the AKP's official candidate for mayor of Istanbul, it is President Erdogan himself who will be campaigning. AP - Ozan Guzelce

By: RFI Follow


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Recep Tayyip Erdogan has entrusted a technocrat with the difficult task of reconquering Istanbul in the municipal elections on 31 March against the popular outgoing mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu. "We won't stop before March 31, keep going," the president said on Sunday at a congress of his Islamic-conservative AKP party. "We stand before our nation with candidates who seek solutions rather than excuses, who act with humility rather than arrogance.


Murat Kurum, 48, served as Minister of Environment and Urban Planning between 2018 and June 2023. He is currently the ruling party's deputy for Istanbul province. But Kurum doesn't come from the world of politics. Prior to his ministerial duties, he held senior positions for 13 years at TOKI, the social housing administration, a major player in the major "urban transformation" projects that Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been carrying out for the past twenty years. The choice of such a profile is not insignificant for a megalopolis of 20 million inhabitants threatened by a devastating earthquake.

The announcement was eagerly awaited, as the Turkish president's main objective is to retake the country's economic capital, of which he himself was mayor before leading the country, from the opposition, says our correspondent in Istanbul, Anne Andlauer. The appointment of Murat Kurum confirms what everyone suspected: the "real" candidate for power in the Istanbul municipal elections is Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself. It is he who will lead the campaign to try to erase the defeat of 2019, the heaviest slap in the face of his long political career.

In addition to the city of Istanbul, the secular opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) that year had control of Ankara, the country's capital, which the president's party and its Islamist predecessors had controlled for 25 years. The opposition had also retained Izmir, a port on the Aegean Sea. These electoral setbacks in Turkey's three major cities shattered Erdogan's image of political invincibility and highlighted a growing dissatisfaction with the government.

Erdogan was nevertheless re-elected as head of state last year in a difficult election held in the throes of an economic crisis marked by an annual inflation rate of more than 85%.

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