DEM Party fields candidates for Istanbul mayorship race

Turkey’s pro-Kurdish DEM Party on Feb. 9 announced Meral Danış Beştaş and Murat Çepni as their co-mayoral candidates for the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. 

Duvar English

Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples' Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party on Feb. 9 announced its co-mayoral candidates for Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality as deputy Meral Danış Beştaş and former deputy Murat Çepni, along with co-candidates for 15 other metropolitan municipalities and 40 provincial municipalities. 

Meral Danış Beştaş was elected as a deputy from the eastern Erzurum province in 2023. She has been in parliament since 2015 and served the previous two terms under the then-called People’s Democracy Party (HDP). Murat Çepni served as a HDP deputy from the Aegean İzmir province between 2018 and 2023 and has been the party’s ecology co-chair since 2016.  

Party spokesperson Ayşegül Doğan announced the decision at the DEM Party headquarters in the capital Ankara province. She noted that candidates were selected through a social consensus system, where the party electorate weighed in on the nominees. “We have maintained that our selections would serve the peoples of Turkey,” Doğan reassured constituents.

The spokesperson reiterated, “Our political movement is too powerful and too experienced to be constricted to a choice between supporting or sabotaging another party.” She added that the party’s decisions should not be read as a favor or a jab against anyone. “We are fighting not to help another party feel strong, but to help peoples feel stronger and live in peace,” she concluded. 

DEM Party’s candidates for the crucial Istanbul municipality were long-awaited. Başak Demirtaş, the wife of influential Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, was considered for candidacy as she had expressed her willingness. However, the party and Demirtaş on Feb. 7 mutually agreed not to nominate her as the Istanbul candidate. 

Danış Beştaş and Çepni will run against the current mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu from Republican People’s Party (CHP), former Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), and Buğra Kavuncu from former opposition ally İYİ (Good) Party. The election will take place on March 31. 

In the 2019 local elections, the İYİ Party and HDP did not field mayoral candidates for Istanbul and Ankara metropolitan municipalities, making the race between the AKP and the CHP, which ended in a CHP victory.