Pro-gov’t columnist claims more opposition mayors to be removed from office

Mayors of Turkey’s main cities from main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) could be removed from office at any time on charges of siphoning money, wrote columnist Ersin Ramoğlu in pro-government daily Sabah on Monday.

The claim coincides with Monday’s sacking of three Kurdish opposition mayors in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority Diyarbakır, Van, and Mardin provinces. 

The CHP’s success in the March 31 local elections, in which it won five of Turkey’s most populous provinces, was due to the party’s alliance with followers of Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic cleric accused by Turkey’s government of masterminding the 2016 coup attempt, known as the Gülen movement, Ramoğlu wrote.

The columnist alleged that 34 mayors from the CHP, including Istanbul’s Ekrem İmamoğlu, southern agro-industrial province of Adana’s Zeydan Karalar, Istanbul’s Sarıyer district’s Şükrü Genç and south-western province of Aydın’s Özlem Çerçioğlu, had links to Gülen’s movement.

According to the columnist, Erkan Karaarslan, a former advisor to several city councils who is currently imprisoned on terrorism charges for allegedly dealing with municipalities in the name of the Gülen movement, established several companies, which then won tenders from CHP municipalities in a scheme to siphon municipal budgets.

Ramoğlu also claimed thousands of municipal workers had been fired to make room for supporters of the Gülen movement and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has been at war in Turkey for over three decades.

CHP Leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in February 2019 had accused famous Turkish businessman Fettah Tamince of having ties to Gülen and claimed that the government had been protecting him. Ramoğlu argued that Kılıçdaroğlu did so to appease Gülen, in a move that would both punish former movement member Tamince and threaten President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.