Amberin Zaman:  Government determined to sack mayor Ekrem Imamoglu

“Istanbul’s mayor Ekrem Imamoglu is facing prosecution over alleged corruption, Turkey’s judiciary announced Wednesday, the latest in a series of legal cases aimed at removing him from power, according to opposition officials”, writes noted Turkish affairs commentator Amberin Zaman for al Monitor.


The Turkish ministry of interior has investigated complaints that while he was mayor of Istanbul’s Beylikduzu district from 2014-2019, Imamoglu awarded a public tender to an unqualified company. The case is due to be heard on June 15. Prosecutors are seeking a maximum seven-year prison term for Imamoglu and six co-workers on charges of graft. They also want him banned from politics on the same charges.


In a ruling in December, Imamoglu was already barred from politics and sentenced to nearly three years in prison for criticizing Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Board. The board had ordered a controversial redo of the 2019 municipal elections that favored the main opposition pro-secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) in several key cities, including Istanbul. Imamoglu, 52, won by a landslide in the repeat election, marking the first time an opposition figure handed Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan such a resounding defeat.

In the presidential race, opinion polls consistently put him ahead of Erdogan, whose once-unassailable popularity has slumped in the midst of Turkey’s worst economic downturn since 2001.

Erdogan’s persecution at the hands of the judiciary, then in league with the country’s fiercely anti-Islamist generals, helped to rally millions of pious Turkish Sunnis behind him. Will Imamoglu’s plight have a similar impact? “It all depends on what the opposition does with it,” said Roj Girasun, who runs Rawest, a research and polling firm that focuses on the country’s estimated 14 million Kurds.

“If they use it to score points against each other in the ongoing battle to name a presidential candidate, this can only benefit Erdogan,” Girasun told Al-Monitor. “As things currently stand, the opposition projects an image of disarray.”

Levent Gultekin, a prominent government critic, complained on the independent news channel Medyascope TV, “The opposition’s first order of business should be to win the election,” but instead, “they are busy squabbling over who should get which ministry.”


Imamoglu likely to be sacked, because Erdogan fears him the most


Imamoglu is at the center of the ongoing power struggle over who gets the presidential nomination from the CHP-led alliance of six opposition parties. The CHP leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, covets the role, but his detractors claim that with his lackluster campaigning style, Kurdish roots and Alevi faith, he would be mincemeat for Erdogan. The anti-Kilicdaroglu crowd argue that Erdogan is seeking to eliminate Imamoglu from the race precisely because he believes the CHP leader poses no threat to him.

That view is shared by Meral Aksener, the leader of the right-wing nationalist Iyi or Good party, who is backing Imamoglu, claims Zaman.


While Imamoglu does perform better than Kilicdaroglu  vs Erdogan in all presidential polls, with only one exception, Kilicdaroglu, too, does beat Erdogan in the second round, in polls where Erdogan loses.


In other words, there is little difference between Imamoglu and Kilicdaroglu from a vote-getting perspective. Furthermore, as Zaman agrees:


The HDP is widely believed to be leaning towards Kilicdaroglu in any runoff — which might be inevitable if they run their own candidate, as no single candidate would then be likely to score the 50 percent of the vote needed to win in a first round.

Contrary to commentators who are quoted in Zaman’s article, constituents of the Table of Six opposition alliance steadfastly deny there is a quarrel about the identity of the presidential candidate. In fact, opposition bastion daily Cumhuriyet interviewed frontbenchers from the six parties, who once again confirmed that relations are cozy.

PA Turkey believes Erdogan is determined to sack Imamoglu from his position as mayor of Istanbul, which would also disqualify him from the presidential contention and will have a major unifying effect on the Table of six. Then, by default Kilicdaroglu becomes the joint candidate, because the other contender,  IYIP chairwoman Meral Aksener has disqualified herself. She wants to be the next prime minister of Turkey.

According to opposition insiders, the leaders have already crafted a mid-way solution, where the next president will be seconded by five VPs, each form other members of Table of Six, who will have veto power on some executive decisions.


Comments by PA Turkey staff

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Published By: Atilla Yeşilada

GlobalSource Partners’ Turkey Country Analyst Atilla Yesilada is the country’s leading political analyst and commentator. He is known throughout the finance and political science world for his thorough and outspoken coverage of Turkey’s political and financial developments. In addition to his extensive writing schedule, he is often called upon to provide his political expertise on major radio and television channels. Based in Istanbul, Atilla is co-founder of the information platform Istanbul Analytics and is one of GlobalSource’s local partners in Turkey. In addition to his consulting work and speaking engagements throughout the US, Europe and the Middle East, he writes regular columns for Turkey’s leading financial websites VATAN and and has contributed to the financial daily Referans and the liberal daily Radikal.