Ekrem Imamoglu is a Turkish businessman, building contractor, and centre-left politician serving as the 32nd Mayor of Istanbul. After graduating from Trabzon High School, he completed his undergraduate and then graduate education at Istanbul University. He started his active political life in 2008 as a member of the Republican People's Party. In the local elections of March 30, 2014, he was elected as the Mayor of Beylikduzu with the great favor of the people of Beylikduzu, by increasing the vote share of the party from 30 percent in the previous election to 50.8 percent.
Ekrem was announced to be the Nation Alliance's joint candidate for Istanbul Mayor, overtaking more prominent contenders such as Muharrem Ince, the CHP's 2018 presidential candidate. On the eve of the elections, Ekrem gained a narrow lead in the mayoral race, with initial results showing his lead to be around 23,000 votes. His lead was eventually cut to 13,729 after a series of recounts backed by the government.
Ekrem was sworn in as Mayor of Istanbul on 17 April, following the conclusion of all recounts. On 6 May 2019, the Supreme Electoral Council convened and voted to annul the results of the mayoral election. A new election took place on 23 June 2019 in which Ekre, was re-elected as the mayor by a margin of approximately 800,000 votes. He was sworn into office on 27 June 2019. Because of the scale of his victory and popularity, he has been called a possible candidate for the Turkish presidency in the next elections.
Ekrem also played football as a student. He served as a board member at Trabzonspor Football Club, Trabzonspor Basketball Club, and Beylikduzuspor Sports Club.
Ekrem was born in the Cevizli village of Trabzon’s Akcaabat district in 1970. He graduated from Istanbul University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. Following his undergraduate studies, he completed a Master of Science degree in Human Resources Management at the same university. During his time as a student, he played football as an amateur. He served as a board member at Trabzonspor Football Club, Trabzonspor Basketball Club, and Beylikdüzüspor Sports Club.
In 1992, while still a graduate student, Ekrum started working for the family business. He then assumed the CEO role in the group’s companies to lead housing and urban planning projects. While leading these projects, he encountered numerous problems stemming from local affairs, which led him to his decision to enter politics.
Ekrem joined the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in 2009 and became a member of the Beylikduzu District Organisation. In the same year, he ran as a candidate for nomination to Beylikduzu District Mayor, and actively participated in the party’s election campaign. Following the local election, he was elected the District Head of the CHP. After 5 years as a successful District Head who enhanced and improved the District Organization, Ekrem was nominated in 2013 as a candidate for Beylikduzu District Mayor in the preliminary election within his party. In the March 30 local elections in 2014, he was elected Mayor of Beylikduzu.
After his election as Mayor of Beylikduzu, and between the years 2014-2019, he realised a wide range of projects that transformed the district’s appearance. Following the positive changes he made in the district’s living standards, social life, and infrastructural services, Ekrem captured the attention of the people of Beylikduzu, the media, academia, and the upper echelons of his party.
Subsequently, the CHP nominated Ekrum for Mayor of Istanbul in the local elections of March 31, 2019. After an effective and inspiring campaign period of three months, he garnered 48.82% of the total votes and was elected Mayor of Istanbul. This was the highest percentage of votes that any Mayor of Istanbul had received in over 30 years.
Nevertheless, following the objections made by the ruling party, the Supreme Board of Elections (YSK) annulled Ekrem's mandate on his 18th day as Mayor, relying on a decision that went against its own legal precedents. YSK ruled for an election re-run for June 23, 2019. After the annulment of the vote, Ekrem launched his new election campaign with a historic speech he delivered in the Beylikduzu Valley of Life (Yasam Vadisi) on the evening of May 6, 2019. His speech generated a strong sentiment of hope and determination among the voters who had faced great disappointment in the aftermath of the annulment. This sentiment was sustained throughout the course of the campaign.
Ekrem's renewed campaign became a potent symbol of the fight for justice and democracy in Turkey. On June 23, he achieved an even more successful result than on March 31 and was elected Mayor with the support of 54.2% of the voters. This election became a milestone for the democratic future of both Istanbul and Turkey.
In his speeches for 2019 election campaign, Ekrem stressed the importance of working together to tackle urban poverty and condemned the populist rhetoric that has become commonplace in Turkish politics.
Ekrem's constant efforts to shape Istanbul's future won him immense popularity. He was regularly seen at neighbourhood meetings discussing local issues.
Ekrem cast the 2019 elections as a battle for the future of Turkish democracy. Speaking to the local newspapers on the day of the elections, he said:
“In the name of Istanbul and in the name of the legitimacy of all future elections in our country, I believe today my people will make the right decision.”