MHP local branch head shoos Mayor İmamoğlu during campaign visit for 'collaborating' with DEM Party

Arzu Karaalioğlu, a district branch head of Turkey’s far-right MHP, has told Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu to “back off” as he approached the party’s local election campaign stand during a visit. She added that she would not welcome “collaborators of terrorists,” referring to the pro-Kurdish DEM Party. 

Duvar English

Arzu Karaalioğlu, a local district branch head of Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), on Feb. 25 told Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu to “back off” as he wanted to visit the MHP local election stand in the Sancaktepe district.

İmamoğlu was on a campaign visit to the district with the Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Sancaktepe mayoral candidate Alper Yeğin. After visiting other parties’ campaign stands, the group approached the MHP stand. 

Karaalioğlu said, “Back off, go and drink with your bargaining partners,” referring to the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party. The party’s opponents often use a wordplay that associates it with alcohol consumption, as the party’s abbreviation DEM means drinking or steeping. 

İmamoğlu and company left the stand, and the footage of the interaction went viral on social media. 

Karaalioğlu issued a statement after the event on her X account. She said İmamoğlu insisted on visiting the stand to “stir chaos” even though the party had previously declined the offer, saying they “would not welcome those with martyrs’ blood on their hands.” 

The MHP district head stated that İmamoğlu was on his Sancaktepe tour with “the political branch of a terrorist organization, a party that is legal on paper but illegal in principle and practice, using rags filled with separatist propaganda,” alluding to DEM Party.

Karaalioğlu alleged that municipality officers distributed DEM Party flags to the crowd before İmamoğlu's rally. She shared screenshots from the rally as evidence, where a couple of people were seen waving the flag. 

The accusation stemmed from DEM Party’s decision to not nominate mayoral candidates in Sancaktepe, along with several other local municipalities in Istanbul. 

DEM Party stated the decision on whether to field candidates in a certain district was made through an urban consensus. Although the parties did not officially announce any such alliance, critics believed the decision was the result of a tacit agreement with CHP, as the municipalities were all swing districts where the main opposition CHP and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) went head to head.  

In the 2019 local elections, AKP’s candidate won in Sancaktepe with 49,88% of the votes, whereas CHP lost with 47,20%. 

The local elections will take place on March 31, 2024.