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Istanbul's new mayor faces stiff road ahead after landslide win

photo by AP photo

Ekrem Imamoglu (pictured) of the secular Republican People\'s Party, knows he must find a way to work with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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14th-Jul-2019       
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AFP, Istanbul :
Turkey's main opposition scored a major blow against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month when it won control of Istanbul, but now faces a wounded government reluctant to relinquish power.
With Erdogan expected to stay in office until at least 2023, the new mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu of the secular Republican People's Party (CHP), knows he must find a way to work with the president.
After Erdogan's ruling AKP party lost Turkey's largest city in a rerun vote on June 23, the president congratulated Imamoglu and described the vote as the "will of the people".
But just days later his government moved to strip Imamoglu of key mayoral powers of patronage.
The show of strength raises strategic questions for Imamoglu, who has vowed to work "in harmony" with Erdogan but is also talked about as a future presidential challenger.
Having called for a meeting with Erdogan to address the urgent problems of the 15-million-strong metropolis, the new mayor has so far remained fairly vague about his plans.
He has promised to crack down on alleged lavish spending at the municipality and bring in international-standard auditors to assure transparency, warning that the city faces bankruptcy if urgent action is not taken.
Imamoglu also said he would create green belts in Istanbul, and return trees and grass to Taksim square in the heart of the city - echoing the demands of protesters who triggered a mass anti-government movement over the redevelopment of neighbouring Gezi park in 2013.
Urban planners remain sceptical about his promises.
"Istanbul's green space problem is not only about hostility to nature - it's also a question of the economy," said Sedat Durel, environment engineer at the Chamber of Environmental Engineers.
Durel said nothing will change without a fundamental change in the current governing mentality, which favours mass commercial development over natural spaces.

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