In a first since 1994, CHP wins Beyoğlu, Istanbul’s beating heart

Oppositional candidate İnan Güney won Istanbul’s central Beyoğlu district with a wide margin in Turkey’s local elections, marking a first for the CHP since 1994.

Beyoğlu's new mayor İnan Güney from the main opposition CHP. Photo: Osman Çaklı/Gazete Duvar

Duvar English

Turkey’s local elections on March 31 dealt a significant blow to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu comfortably secured reelection as Istanbul Mayor.

Moreover, the CHP managed to flip several conservative strongholds in Istanbul, including Beyoğlu, the iconic heart of the metropolis, marking a first for the secular party since 1994.

İnan Güney, the CHP’s candidate, clinched victory with a wide margin of 49.22% against incumbent mayor Haydar Ali Yıldız from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), who garnered a mere 40% of the vote from a constituency of over 167,000 voters.

Yıldız, a close affiliate of President Erdoğan’s son, had been a prominent figure in AKP’s Beyoğlu politics for years.

Güney, a financial advisor and a member of the Istanbul municipality assembly, campaigned heavily on his status as a long-term resident himself.

"I have been living in Beyoğlu for 47 years," Güney told news platform Artı Gerçek during his campaign. "I know the solutions to the problems we’re facing."

According to Güney, one of the district’s most pressing problems is urban transformation, which has been solely used for political purposes, alienating residents.

Beyoğlu, often regarded as Istanbul’s cultural heart, boasts several iconic landmarks, such as Istiklal Street and the Galata Tower, while also being home to Turkey’s historical centers of political dissent, Taksim Square and the adjacent Gezi Park.

These sites witnessed Turkey’s historic Gezi protests in 2013, starting as sit-ins against urban transformation projects impacting Beyoğlu’s outlook; these demonstrations eventually evolved into a broader anti-government movement.

Güney had been a supporter of the protests.

In the aftermath of the Gezi, Beyoğlu’s nightlife underwent rapid change, with many establishments moving to Kadıköy, a neighborhood on the Asian side of the city.

Güney however has vowed in several interviews to strengthen Beyoğlu’s cultural and artistic identity again.

Beyond its historical and symbolic significance, the district also holds a pivotal place in President Erdoğan’s personal and political life.

The AKP chair was born and raised in Beyoğlu’s Kasımpaşa neighborhood and took his first steps in politics as the now-closed Welfare Party’s Beyoğlu chair in 1984.

Apart from Beyoğlu, the CHP seized several other key districts previously run by the AKP, including Üsküdar, home to Erdoğan’s private residence, resulting in the secular party securing a majority of Istanbul’s districts and the municipal council.

(English version by Wouter Massink)