In Istanbul, thousands of people took to the streets to demonstrate against the conviction of Mayor Imamoglu. He is seen as the biggest political rival of President Erdogan. Yesterday, he was sentenced to two years and seven months in prison for insulting the Elections Commission.
Protesters in Istanbul stood in front of the municipality building, holding Turkish flags. Some chanted, “One day, the AKP will be held accountable.” The Justice and Development Party is Erdogan’s ruling party.
Imamoglu is a member of the secular Republican People’s Party, Turkey’s largest opposition party. To everyone’s surprise, he won the Istanbul mayoral election in 2019. Because the city is considered the cultural and economic center of Turkey, it was a painful defeat for Erdogan.
After his victory, the result was initially declared invalid. Then Imamoglu replied, “Those who canceled the elections are stupid.” He said that this came in response to Interior Minister Soylu, who called him stupid. When he took the vote again, Imamoglu won by a larger margin.
Reuters spoke to a man who traveled 200 kilometers to participate in the demonstration: “The government is afraid, and that is why this statement is there.” Another protester said he had come to “protect the rights and votes of millions of Istanbul residents”. “We are here because we want to live in a country ruled by law.”
Imamoglu also appeared at the demonstration. He said he feels supported by many Turks. “All 16 million people of Istanbul, our nation and our great Turkish alliance stand with me. We will change the system of power in next year’s elections.”
Imamoglu is still the mayor for the time being
Imamoglu was one of the main candidates to challenge Erdogan in next year’s presidential elections. If his sentence remains, he will never be allowed to participate in politics again, at least not while he is in prison.
Imamoglu has appealed against his conviction. This is expected to take at least a year. Until then, he can remain as mayor of Istanbul.
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