Ekrem İmamoğlu

Mayor of Istanbul, sentenced to almost 3 years in jail

Ekrem İmamoğlu, who could face Erdoğan in the 2023 presidential elections, may be now banned as mayor of Istanbul.

A Turkish court sentenced on Wednesday to Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu to 2 years and 7 months in jail after finding him guilty of charges of insulting members of the Turkish Central Election Board (YSK). In addition to finding the city mayor guilty, the sentence also includes a series of prohibitions that could lead to İmamoğlu’s ban from continuing in office as head of the metropolitan council.

The sentence issued today refers to a speech that the now mayor, a member of the opposition’s Republican People’s Party (CHP), delivered in 2019 precisely during the elections that led him to win the mayoralty of the largest city in Turkey by a very narrow margin. 7 out of 11 YSK members voted in favor of annulling the election results and repeating the poll in Istanbul after allegations made by Erdoğan’s party, the AKP, citing various irregularities during the process.

In response to that decision, İmamoğlu said that “those who have annulled the (Istanbul municipal) elections on March 31 are idiots.” The now mayor has always denied the charges, and during the trial he maintained that his words were not directed at the members of the Electoral Board, but alleged that it was a response to the Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, who had previously called him an “idiot” when accusing İmamoğlu for criticizing Turkey during a visit to the European Parliament after the election result was cancelled.

After the repetition of the local elections in the city on June 23 of that same year, İmamoğlu managed to win clearly in Istanbul, obtaining 54.21% of the votes, prevailing over the AKP candidate and last Turkish prime minister (after the constitutional changes that imposed a presidential system in Turkey) Binali Yıldırım, and improving the results obtained in March, when İmamoğlu had obtained the victory by just 14,000 votes arousing suspicions of fraud.

İmamoğlu’s victory was a severe setback for Erdoğan’s AKP party, being the first time that the conservative party had lost the elections in the Turkish metropolis. The still mayor of Istanbul, whose name sounds like a possible candidate to face Erdoğan himself in the 2023 presidential elections, is expected to appeal the sentence released today and which theoretically condemns him to jail, although since he has no criminal record, he actually would spend only one day in prison, at most.