The mayor of Istanbul and an important figure in the Turkish opposition, Ekrem Imamoglu, is threatened with the removal of his office and exclusion from political life for four years, since the Turkish judiciary is very likely not to miss the opportunity to remove him from the political game nine months ago from the presidential election.
His trial on charges of “insulting” was due to begin today. Postponed to November 11.
Erdogan’s main opponent
The 52-year-old Ekrem Imamoglu, who managed to wrest the politically valuable municipality of the Turkish metropolis from the hands of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the municipal elections, in two consecutive votes, is perhaps the opposition’s best candidate to contest next June the presidency of the country by Tayyip Erdogan.
In March 2019, his narrow electoral victory in the municipal elections was annulled by the Turkish leadership that could not accept the loss of the Istanbul mayoralty.
Three months later, Ekrem Imamoglu won a landslide victory in the run-off of municipal elections. Thus the AKP and, most importantly, its leader, lost popular support in Turkey’s financial capital and largest city, on which Erdogan, mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1998, built his rise to the presidency.
A few months after winning the election, Ekrem Imamoglu declared that those who annulled his election were “idiots” – repeating the expression that a few hours earlier had been used against him by Interior Minister Suleiman Soylu.
The use of this characterization establishes the charge of “insult” that currently brings Ekrem Imamoglu before the Supreme Electoral Council of Turkey.
In recent years, “insulting” has become a favorite charge of the regime, which thus tries to neutralize its political opponents when it cannot accuse them of “terrorism”.
Imamoglu faces up to four years in prison, and his lawyer Kemal Polat explains that any sentence of more than a year in prison – even a sentence of one year and one day – means an automatic exclusion from political life for four years. He hopes to be fined. But the prosecutor requested in April that Ekrem Imamoglu be sentenced to 15 months in prison.
A political case
“To put it bluntly, this is a political case…the sides of the dispute had a verbal confrontation after a political dispute. There was no mention of a public institution,” says the Istanbul mayor’s lawyer.
Ekrem Imamoglu will be present at the hearing.
The worst development, according to APE, is possible, says Sinan Ylgen, director of the think tank “Edam” based in Istanbul. “Ekrem Imamoglu is one of the opposition’s main potential candidates for the presidency” and remains popular, despite the setbacks, he says, referring to the management of the snowstorm that paralyzed the Turkish metropolis last January.
“Power is likely to have a tendency to put him out of the game. The danger is real…and it would be artificially interfering with the democratic process,” says Sinan Ylgen.
“In this case the opposition will find itself with its hands tied: it will not be able to take the risk of calling for popular protest, fearing that it will be blamed for the repression that would follow,” he explains.
Since the coup attempt in July 2016, the Turkish regime has made more than 300,000 arrests, mainly in the ranks of the police, the military, the judiciary and among the Turkish intelligentsia. Many journalists, academics, defenders of rights and freedoms have gone into exile to escape the pogrom.
And the deterrent effect of this wave of general repression is weighing on Turkey today.