Turkish imam announces AKP candidacy in upcoming elections during sermon

An imam in Turkey’s northern province of Samsun announced his mayoral candidacy for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the 2019 local elections during his Friday sermon, Diken news site reported.

İmdat Atmaca, who has been serving as the imam of a mosque in the town of Ayvacık for 20 years, delivered a sermon on the Islamic holy day of Friday, after which he announced to the congregation that he would be running for mayor of Ayvacık in the country's local elections set for March 2019.

“We’ve had wonderful days together and served villages and central Ayvacık. We tried to reach out to the needy. I thank all of you and the reason for my expression of gratittude is that my service to you at the Ayvacık Central Mosque has come to an end. I have resigned in order to serve you as mayor...’’ Atmaca said.

Turkey’s imam’s are appointed by the state-run Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet). Turkish civil servants are forbidden by law from participating in politics, and imams, employed by the Diyanet and thus the state, fall under this category. This law also applies to praise or slander of the government, political parties and politicians, meaning that imams could be dismissed for statements to their congregations that are deemed to be political.