Ekrem İmamoğlu, the opposition mayor of Istanbul, has responded to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's insistence on proceeding with the controversial Kanal Istanbul project, saying the government should not “obstinate" with the will of Istanbul residents.
“I remind those the June 23 date [the re-run of Istanbul's mayoral elections] who see it as a merit to obstinate with Istanbul. Istanbul is bigger than one,” İmamoğlu told reporters on Feb. 25, in a clear reference to Erdoğan's motto of “The world is bigger than five.”
Erdoğan uses the phrase of “The world is greater than five” to criticize the UN Security Council's structure with a demand calling for the membership of the Council to be made more representative.
İmamoğlu's remarks came after Erdoğan said that the government will “build Kanal Istanbul despite them.” “They will see how Istanbul will become more beautiful with Kanal Istanbul. We will make them get used to it,” Erdoğan said on Feb. 24, while addressing his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) congress in Istanbul.
İmamoğlu said that Erdoğan's remarks were an attempt to change the agenda of the country.
The project aims to connect the Black Sea north of Istanbul with the Marmara Sea to the south and is estimated to cost $11.6 billion. The government says it will ease shipping traffic on the Bosphorus Strait and prevent accidents there.
The project, which was effectively on hold after a currency crisis in 2018 drove the economy into recession, came back on the agenda in December of 2019, leading to heated exchanges between Erdoğan and İmamoğlu, seen by many as the main contender of the Turkish president in the next presidential elections in 2023.
İmamoğlu was elected mayor in a re-run election on June, 23 2019 in what was at the time a blow to Erdogan and his ruling AKP.