Thousands of Turks demonstrated in Istanbul against the prison sentence of Ekrem Imamoglu, the city’s mayor. On Wednesday, he was sentenced to two years and seven months in prison for insulting government officials.
The convicted mayor appealed. Imamoglu is seen as a potential challenger to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in next year’s elections. But if convicted, he may not be politically active during his sentence. However, he can remain mayor of Istanbul until the appeal.
The protest was held in Istanbul, a city of about sixteen million people, at the city hall. The demonstrators carried Turkish flags and hung a large picture of the founder of present-day Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, on the building. Those present shouted, “There will come a day when the Justice and Development Party will be held accountable.” The Justice and Development Party is the ruling party headed by Erdogan.
Next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections could be Erdogan’s biggest political challenge yet. Six opposition parties, led by Imamoglu’s party, have formed an alliance against the president. They have not yet chosen a presidential candidate. The mayor of Istanbul was mentioned as a possible candidate and, according to opinion polls, could defeat Erdogan, who has been in power for nearly 20 years.
Imamoglu says he is being punished for his success. He won the Istanbul mayoral elections in 2019, but the Electoral Council declared them invalid. He won the new vote by a larger margin. A few months after taking office, he called the members of the Electoral Council “idiots”.
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