Turkish government accused of manipulating courts to thwart Istanbul mayor’s presidential ambition 2023

The mayor’s lawyer told The Media Line that the Turkish government is using criminal proceedings to prevent Istanbul’s opposition mayor from becoming president or party leader.

After being condemned to more than two years last year, Ekrem Imamoglu, who delivered the opposition its biggest triumph in decades by winning the 2019 Istanbul mayoral contest, faces up to seven years in jail on fresh accusations.

The major opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) member Ekrem Imamoglu, who led Istanbul’s Beylikdüzü district, is accused of fraud over government tenders.

The government aims to prevent Imamoglu from leading the biggest opposition party or becoming president, according to his lawyer, Gokhan Gunaydin.

“The plan is to try to ban his political road,” Gunaydin said in court Wednesday, representing Imamoglu against the additional allegations.

The Media Line received no response from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s communications office.

Gunaydin claimed Imamoglu was not involved in the bids that led to the allegations.

If found guilty or if his earlier conviction is maintained, Imamoglu may have to resign owing to a “political ban” that prevents him from being elected.

Gunaydin said there would be multiple appeals before such a ban was implemented and that CHP supporters and those who found the process unjust would “struggle” against it.

“The last Istanbul election proved this,” he remarked.

After Imamoglu narrowly defeated Erdogan’s supporter in the mayoral contest, the electoral board canceled the results and ordered another vote, which he won in a landslide.

Imamoglu was sentenced to almost two years for “insulting” electoral authorities last year, but he appealed.

Imamoglu denies all accusations.

Turkey tensions

The administration denies politicizing the judiciary, but critics say it does.

After winning elections that were anticipated to be his biggest challenge, with numerous surveys showing the opposition candidate tied or ahead of him, analysts fear Erdogan would crack down on dissent.

A co-founder of Erdogan’s former finance minister’s opposition party was sentenced to five years in jail on Thursday for sharing secret information.

The accusations precede local elections for mayors nationwide.

Ankara-based foreign policy analyst Aydin Sezer said Erdogan’s first priority would be regaining Istanbul and Ankara, which the opposition took for the first time in decades in the 2019 municipal elections.

Erdogan is apparently contemplating names that may win votes from all parts of society for these two cities. “However, he is aware that the negative impact of new economic policies on the population will play a large role in the elections,” Sezer told The Media Line.

Turkey’s suffering economy, with inflation reaching 40% last month, is one of the primary reasons Erdogan’s party lost cities in the recent local elections and was pushed into a second round for the May presidential election to keep power.

The Turkish president began his political career as Istanbul’s mayor and grew up in a working-class area.

His worst political loss since coming to power was the city mayoral election loss.

The CHP is entangled in internal party politics, with defeated presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu facing calls to resign and Imamoglu seeking a full party overhaul.

RANE Middle East expert Ryan Bohl told The Media Line that Erdogan wants to prevent opposition candidates from winning municipal elections because they might challenge him in the next presidential election.

“I think he’ll try to disrupt the opposition, try to prevent them from coming back from their defeat this year,” Bohl added.

He said that if the opposition won the municipal elections in Istanbul and Ankara again, it would give them optimism for the 2028 presidential race, but if they failed, it would depress their chances following their May loss.

If they lose those seats, opposition morale will plummet and they may dissolve. he stated.

“If they win, the CHP can stave that off, rally the troops, and try to prepare the counter attack for 2028.”

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