Former PM Tansu Çiller endorses AKP’s Kurum for Istanbul Mayorship

Former Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Çiller has endorsed ruling AKP’s Istanbul mayoral candidate Murat Kurum. Opponent Ekrem İmamoğlu of the CHP suggested Çiller’s endorsement was not surprising as Kurum had opened a protected site owned by Çiller for development during his term as Urbanization Minister. 

Duvar English

Turkey’s former Prime Minister Tansu Çiller on Feb. 22 declared her endorsement for the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) mayoral candidate Murat Kurum for the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality during the “Women who Nurtured Istanbul” meeting organized as part of Kurum’s campaign. 

Çiller served as Turkey’s first and only female prime minister between 1993 and 1996 from the center-right True Path Party (DYP) she chaired. 

Çiller said that Murat Kurum brought Istanbul the “enthusiasm” it has been missing. She added that Kurum’s points about the expected Istanbul earthquake and the traffic problem of the province were important.

The former PM also found Kurum’s projects about employment exciting, as she believed “especially young women needed employment.” 

Çiller’s open endorsement as a no-longer active politician was criticized by Kurum’s main opponent in the upcoming mayoral elections and current Istanbul mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu of the People’s Republican Party (CHP).

İmamoğlu said that Çiller supported Kurum’s candidacy because he opened the protected land owned by the former PM’s family to construction when he served as the Urbanization Minister.

“She supports Kurum because he approved a juicy zoning permit for her 13,000 square meter land in Istanbul,” said the mayor. Accordingly, the CHP administration under İmamoğlu sued and canceled the permit. 

“Why would she support me? Kurum helped Çiller earn rents, whereas I work to help my people prosper. That is our difference,” held İmamoğlu.  

Former Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality vice secretary Buğra Gökce detailed Çiller’s zoning saga. Gökce called it a “quintessential story,” as the zoning plan for the permit was irregularly switched in 2020 to allow for hotel construction. 

The plot on Istanbul’s Black Sea coast was a natural protected area, and the Environment, Urbanism and Climate Change Ministry under Kurum switched the land's zoning classification to allow wider construction. 

The Municipality took the zoning change to court in 2022 after the Ministry rejected their objection, and reversed the plans. 

“Under İmamoğlu, we deposed of the mentality that changed zoning permits to allow companies and persons to earn more,” said the former Municipality official.