Interior Minister promises statement on Istanbul mayor's fate on Sunday

Turkey’s Interior Minister has not ruled out dismissing the opposition mayor of Istanbul after threatening to take action against him for his political activities, left-wing daily BirGün reported.

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said he would make a statement on Sunday when a reporter asked him whether the government was going to seize the Istanbul municipality from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) mayor, Ekrem İmamoğlu.

İmamoğlu earned Soylu’s wrath by showing solidarity with three mayors from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) who were suspended by the government last month after being accused of links to outlawed Kurdish militant groups.

“We dismissed these three, and then the newly elected mayor of Turkey’s biggest city (Istanbul) went running to defend them … Do your job, we can deal nicely with you, but if you continue busying yourself in other affairs, we’re going to ruin you,” Soylu said on Tuesday.

On Friday, a journalist asked the minister whether the government would replace İmamoğlu with its own appointee, also asking him to explain what he meant when he said he would “ruin” the opposition mayor.

“I’ll explain on Sunday," Soylu said, referring to a scheduled interview with journalist Hakan Çelik.

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has dismissed dozens of HDP mayors since 2014, accusing them of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK has been in conflict with the Turkish state since launching a separatist insurrection in 1984, and is on Turkey’s terror list.

When the opposition alliance spearheaded by the CHP accepted informal support from the HDP in this year’s local elections, government officials accused the main opposition party of supporting terrorism.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said before the March 31 election that his government would not hesitate to dismiss any elected officials linked to terrorist organisations.

İmamoğlu’s first hurdle after winning the Istanbul election on March 31, though, came when the AKP appealed against his victory, citing fraud.

Turkey’s Supreme Election Council ruled in favour of the appeal in a highly controversial ruling in May. On June 23, İmamoğlu won the election rerun, extending his margin of victory from 13,000 votes to over 800,000 votes.

Istanbul is Turkey’s most populous city and a main driving force of its economy. It is also considered a crucial source of funds for the client networks.

Since taking the mayor’s seat, İmamoğlu has drawn attention to the lavish expenditure of the previous AKP municipal administration, cutting $60 million of funding to government-linked foundations and setting out a public display of cars rented by the administration in contracts worth over $24 million.

Referring to İmamoğlu's display of the cars, Soylu hit back that he had engaged in "showmanship" and said that any wasteful spending should be investigated and dealt with by the appropriate ministry.