Who is Erdogan's primary opponent, who was re-elected mayor of Istanbul?

The re-elected mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, has recently become the leading contender for Turkish President Recep Erdogan. In a sense, he is following in the footsteps of the Turkish leader who ruled the city in the 1990s. Both of them manage the country's largest city and have roots in the Eastern Black Sea region. Turkish courts have hindered their political careers. Both were passionate football players in their youth.

Erdogan has entered politics with an Islamist party and reshaped the secular state to suit his pious vision since coming to power in 2002. In contrast, Imamoglu belongs to the secular People's Republic Party (PRP), which he joined in 2008 and became mayor of Istanbul's Beylikdüzü district 10 years ago. Imamoglu's success is attributed to his ability to overcome the Social Democratic Party of Turkey's 25% support threshold and attract more conservative voters.

After Imamoglu's victory in 2019, a judge sentenced him to 2.5 years in prison for insulting government officials. The appellate court has not yet decided on that case. Similarly, Erdogan was briefly jailed in 1999 for reciting a poem that the court found to incite religious hatred.

In the mid-1990s, when Erdogan became mayor, he visited the Kololak restaurant run by the young Imamoglu in Istanbul's Gungoren district. "When he was the mayor in the first months, I received him at my place," said Imamoglu. He was eating meatballs at my restaurant. I did not take money from him. He won't pay that bill for as long as he lives.