Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu has given an interview to Russian daily Kommersant, during which he said that he had “enough patience” to wait and see the ruling government lose power and “go away through democratic procedures.”
“They are currently in the rulership, but they will not be there tomorrow. I would like to recall the current president's previous remark that 'If Istanbul is lost, so is Turkey,'” İmamoğlu said, referring to the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) humiliating loss in the Istanbul municipal elections in 2019.
“They are understanding that they are about to lose the power and they have little time left. We have enough patience to wait for this rulership to go away through democratic procedures,” Russian news agency Sputnik's Turkish service quoted the mayor as saying on Oct. 18.
İmamoğlu made the remarks when asked about the Istanbul Municipality's conflicts with the government, as seen through the latest example of the Turkey Youth Foundation (TÜGVA), an Islamist foundation controlled by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's son Bilal Erdoğan.
Earlier in October, TÜGVA refused to vacate a municipality-owned hall in Istanbul’s Prince’s Islands and received the support of the police. The Interior Ministry sent police units to the island to prevent the municipal teams from enforcing a court eviction order.
“These [conflicts] are being experienced periodically. We are not in a special effort of going through a conflict. Some of the representatives of the central government are provoking them. While they think that such incidents are beneficial for themselves, we are always on the side of the law and are protecting our interests until the end. We are always saying that these people are impermanent,” İmamoğlu said.
İmamoğlu, from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), is the first politician to have defeated the ruling AKP in the race for the Istanbul Municipality in 2019, since 25 years ago.
Amid discussions of the opposition about a presidential candidate, İmamoğlu is frequently asked when and if he will run for the country's presidency.
Faced with the same question by the Russian daily, İmamoğlu said that the opposition alliance has for now left “personal preferences and ambitions” to the side and that it “will put forward the best [presidential] candidate.”
“Do you remember how I became a candidate for the Istanbul mayorship? They have offered it to me, and I accepted it. I believe that the opposition alliance will work on this issue and will put forward the best candidate,” he said.
Turkey’s next presidential elections are scheduled for 2023, but opposition parties signal their possible coordination to field a joint candidate to challenge President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.