“These trials, or rather these political maneuvers, will serve us politically as they are ridiculous, but they damage our democracy and the image of justice in our country.”
When he receives The Express in one of his offices, in July 2021, the mayor of Istanbul is already seeing the legal proceedings piling up against him. Not enough to panic Ekrem Imamoglu, 52 years old, brown hair, small round glasses and Olympian calm. Surrounded by about fifteen bodyguards, this figure of the CHP, the great opposition party in Turkey, knows that he is in the sights of the power in place since his election as mayor of Istanbul in 2019. And for good reason: he appears as the big favorite for the presidential election of June 2023, beating Recep Tayyip Erdogan in all the polls. This Wednesday, December 14, a court sentenced the city councilor to two years and seven months in prison.
Imamoglu is going to appeal and won’t be sleeping in jail anytime soon. But this sentence is accompanied by a period of ineligibility which bars the road to the presidential election. Turkish justice, under the orders of political power since the massive purges of 2016, dismisses the most serious of Erdogan’s competitors just six months before the elections… The string is almost too big.
“He is ready to do anything to win”
The conviction of the mayor of Istanbul, accused of having “insulted” officials, brought thousands of Turks to the streets on Wednesday afternoon. Anger mounts as the economic crisis continues to worsen and corruption cases pile up against power. In Istanbul, however, Erdogan’s authoritarian acceleration comes as no surprise. In recent months, every conversation with members of civil society or the political opposition ends with these words: “He is ready to do anything to win.”
“Erdogan has four or five levers that he will activate and which can earn him a few points each time, a Turkish economist explained to us at the beginning of November. Attacks against the Kurds, invasion of northern Syria, exceptional financial aid to the population, referendum on the veil… It provokes crises to embody stability. It is very paradoxical and very dangerous.”
Having become indispensable in the mediation between Russia and Ukraine, but also for the entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO, Erdogan knows he is untouchable on the international scene. Europe must swallow its criticism, even when the Turkish president threatens to launch missiles against Greece or bomb our Kurdish allies in Syria. Our diplomacy finds itself trapped by this indispensable ally, whose behavior is erratic. “We Europeans must prepare today for the post-election period in Turkey, warns a diplomat on the spot. At the moment, our strategic relationship with Turkey is a hostile relationship and there is a serious risk. that this country will go completely off the rails in 2023. What happens tomorrow if President Erdogan is re-elected with the help of Vladimir Putin? How will Europe react?”
In securing Imamoglu’s conviction, political tactician Erdogan may have made a major mistake. He who likes so much to recall the great history of Turkey and the Ottoman Empire has a short memory: in 1998, when he himself is mayor of Istanbul, Erdogan was sentenced to ten months in prison for having recited a nationalist poem during an electoral rally. This sanction had transformed him into a hero for part of the population, before being propelled to power four years later.
Having become the living symbol of the authoritarian drift of the Erdogan system, Ekrem Imamoglu now has every chance of unifying the entire opposition behind him. And if the protest movement allows him to run for president, the mayor of Istanbul could succeed in unifying the country against this limitless president.
Source : BBN NEWS