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İstanbul mayor signals need for change in CHP leadership after defeat

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İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), who is pushing for a major overhaul of the CHP following a defeat in the presidential election last month, has said the transformation should include a change in the party’s leadership “if necessary.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won a runoff election on May 28 against a powerful opposition coalition that nominated CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu as its presidential candidate, despite an economic crisis and anger over the response to February earthquakes that killed more than 50,000 people.

After a bruising defeat in the recent presidential runoff, where Erdoğan won 52.18 percent of the vote to Kılıçdaroğlu’s 47.82 percent, according to the official results, calls from leading figures from the CHP are growing for a major overhaul of the party.

Journalist Fatih Altaylı on Monday quoted İmamoğlu in a column on his personal website as saying that if necessary, the leader of the CHP should also be involved in the upcoming changes within the party.

İmamoğlu responded to a question regarding the scope of the overhaul by saying that it should include what it needs to cover, adding that it should also involve Kılıçdaroğlu, if needed.

The mayor argued that if success has not been achieved with the methods tried so far, it is necessary to change them and determine new ones “with the collective wisdom of the party.”

“We lost the election. Forty-eight percent [of the vote] is certainly not a bad percentage, but it is a percentage that is not enough to win and we cannot act as if nothing happened after losing the election,” İmamoğlu said, adding that there are people within the CHP who fail to see how “sad and hopeless” the voters are.

The mayor told Altaylı that his latest meeting with the CHP leader was “very positive” and that he believes that it would pave the way for a change.

“This issue is not just about İmamoğlu or any other individual. … It is essential for us to repair this disappointment [of the voters] before the local elections [in 2024],” İmamoğlu said.

The mayor had argued earlier this month that superficial changes such as overhauling the party’s central management committee would not be enough and that he believed a comprehensive overhaul at all levels is needed.

İmamoğlu ended the years-long Justice and Development Party (AKP) rule in İstanbul when he defeated the AKP’s mayoral candidate twice in the local elections of 2019. He won a rerun election by a larger margin than the first, which had been canceled due to supposed irregularities.

Other figures from the party, including parliamentary group deputy chairman Özgür Özel and Bolu Mayor Tanju Özcan, are also sending signals of an imminent and dramatic transformation within the CHP, including the potential for a shift in the leadership, as the highly anticipated ordinary congress approaches.

The congress will take place on a date determined by the party council following the district congresses, scheduled to be held from Aug. 5 to Sept. 10, and the provincial congresses, which will occur between Sept. 16 and Oct. 15.

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