Political storm brewing between Turkey’s president and Istanbul mayor - Voice of America
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s public criticism of Istanbul mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu has increased fears the opposition mayor could soon be dismissed, Voice of America reported on Monday.
“The mayor of Istanbul rubs shoulders with those who have links with terrorism in Diyarbakır," Erdoğan said on Sunday, referring to the largest city in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast and one of three Kurdish-majority provinces whose mayors were sacked last month due to what the government said were links to terrorist groups.
İmamoğlu visited Diyarbakır last week and met the dismissed Kurdish mayors of Diyarbakır, Mardin and Van, all of whom were elected in March for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
“Those who cannot take up a position against terrorism cannot be a mayor or a politician,” the president said.
Several analysts, including U.S.-based scholar Ahmet Kuru and leftist columnist Ihsan Çaralan, believe Erdoğan is preparing to remove mayors belonging to the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Erdoğan also condemned İmamoğlu for flash flooding that occurred in Istanbul while the mayor was on vacation.
“This can be the start of a process which can end with taking control of Istanbul and Ankara,” Hüseyin Bağcı of Ankara's Middle East Technical University told VoA.
The CHP's victory in Istanbul was the biggest blow to Erdoğan's prestige, according to VoA, ending a 25-year domination of Turkey's largest and richest city that began with his mayorship in 1994.
İmamoğlu has begun working to reduce the presence of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Istanbul, including the dismissal of more than 1,200 employees hired just before he took office and cancelling more than $60 million in funding for AKP-linked foundations.
Pro-government media companies have laid off hundreds of workers after İmamoğlu ended lucrative advertising deals. Analysts say Erdoğan could be facing pressure from these firms to oust İmamoğlu, according to VoA.
Istanbul’s mayor has played down the possible threat of removal.
“Everyone should now know their limits,” İmamoğlu said on Sunday, using a phrase the president has regularly employed.