Erdoğan, Istanbul mayor İmamoğlu break ice over a broken chair - columnist

A meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and 26 mayors of metropolitan municipalities went smoothly with the country’s leader of 16 years exchanging jokes with the newly elected opposition mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem İmamoğlu, over a broken chair, columnist Abdülkadir Selvi wrote in the Hürriyet newspaper on Thursday.

Erdoğan and the mayors gathered in Ankara on Wednesday to discuss local government issues. The mayors belonging to the secular main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) went to the presidential palace after a meeting at their party’s headquarters, Selvi said.

The CHP mayors decided to prioritise three issues; changes to the Metropolitan Municipality Law, fair distribution of resources across municipalities and discrimination against CHP-controlled municipalities, the columnist said. 

Selvi said the CHP mayors had told him that the meeting with Erdoğan had been productive. “The atmosphere, consultations and dialogue were all very good. We expressed ourselves as mayors, it was good that the ministers responded immediately,” İmamoğlu told Selvi. 

Erdoğan in a speech before the meeting criticised İmamoğlu who has fired at least 1,400 municipal employees this month and last week lined up hundreds of vehicles rented by the previous ruling party administration to highlight the scale of wasteful spending in Istanbul.

“When we began at the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, there were staff from two or three terms before. I did not touch anyone who deserved their place. We never went after the staff or vehicles,” Erdoğan said, referring to his time as the city’s mayor from 1994 to 1998.

But the meeting between the Turkish president and the Istanbul mayor was friendlier, Selvi said. 

The first chair given to İmamoğlu broke. “We are too heavy for the chair,” İmamoğlu said sparking laughter, according to Selvi. The second chair brought for İmamoğlu had a loose leg and that was changed too. 

İmamoğlu was elected as Istanbul’s mayors on March 31 polls by a narrow margin, but the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) appealed the results. İmamoğlu then won a rerun on June 23 and took control of the municipality, which had been held by the AKP and its predecessors since 1994. 

“This is state property,” Erdoğan said to İmamoğlu jokingly, according to Selvi. “You will pay for the broken chair.”