Chair of Turkey’s nationalist opposition İYİ (Good) Party Meral Akşener on Jan. 24 announced Buğra Kavuncu and Cengiz Topel Yıldırım as the party’s mayoral candidates for Istanbul and Ankara municipalities.
Istanbul candidate Buğra Kavuncu was elected as a İYİ Party deputy in 2023, and previously served as the chief advisor to party chair Akşener during the general election campaign. He runs against current Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and former Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Ankara’s candidate Cengiz Topel Yıldırım was previously a CHP member, and served as chief advisor to former party chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu between 2016 and 2023. During his speech at the party headquarters, Yıldırım stated Ankara has been ruled by a “visionless and sub-par” administration for the past five years under CHP mayor Mansur Yavaş. The ruling AKP's Ankara mayoral candidate is Turgut Altınok.
Akşener followed the introduction of the candidates with a speech, where she denounced the “politics of obligation.” Addressing every citizen of Turkey, Akşener said that they were no longer bound to vote “halfheartedly” to candidates that neither “understood, saw, or knew” them.
She continued, “You are not limited by those who praise Sheikh Said, those who salute murderers, those who market a Turk-less Turkey in the name of democracy,” referring to the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party and main opposition CHP.
The announcement came as no surprise, as chair Akşener had become a staunch critic of the alliance system following Nation Alliance’s joint presidential candidate Kılıçdaroğlu lost against Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in May.
Akşener had adamantly stated that they would field mayoral candidates in Istanbul and Ankara metropolitan municipalities despite the risk of losing both municipalities to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). "We did not establish this party to elect CHP's candidates," Akşener said.
The decision created a rift within the party. Two party seniors resigned from the party on Nov. 10 criticizing the decision to field mayoral candidates in all provinces, triggering a wave of resignations from İYİ Party deputies and various local organizations.