Deposed Istanbul mayor: Pressures, directions behind decision to void elections

Ekrem Imamoglu speaks to Al Arabiya about the recent decision to void the mayoral elections in Istanbul. (Al Arabiya)

Ekrem Imamoglu, the candidate who represents the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), told Al Arabiya News Channel that the Turkish Supreme Electoral Council’s decision to void the results of the Istanbul mayoral elections was wrong and was made due to a pressure to impose a certain will.

Imamoglu also said that voiding the local elections in Istanbul happened for the first time in the history of elections in Turkey, adding it was a sad decision made in the name of democracy.

The opposition candidate noted that if he loses the rerun and the elections are fair, he will not object to the results like the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) did.

Below is the full transcript of Al Arabiya’s interview with Ekrem Imamoglu:

We’ll begin with the Supreme Electoral Council’s decision. Did the decision to void the elections’ results come due to violations during the elections?

First of all, the Supreme Electoral Council’s decision either came due to pressure or it was based on directions to impose a certain will. I want to clarify that this decision is wrong, and we must think that the government wanted this decision and sought to reach this outcome.

Whether it was the right decision or a responsible decision that’s based on facts, I certainly do not know. They’ve made great efforts in order for this decision to be fruitful to them (the ruling party)?

I think the Supreme Electoral Council was under great pressure, and I think the decision made by the council’s seven members was wrong, and it is an illegal decision that’s not based on facts. Of course, this incident happens for the first time in the history of elections in Turkey. It’s certainly a sad decision made in the name of democracy. Now whether it was a responsible decision that was based on violations that happened or that was made due to a governmental will or pressure being exerted, this is possible and God knows best.

You were one of the Republican People's Party members who supported the decision to participate in the election reruns on June 23 and hence against the demands to boycott them. Why did you support the decision to participate in the reruns?

In the cases of democracy, boycotting reruns may either create a positive atmosphere or a negative atmosphere. Boycotting may yield results that harm the democratic process. I’ve made the decision to participate in the elections and discussed the matter with the party’s chief and secretary general and told them that if we boycott these elections, Mr. (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan and his party will be thrilled about this and that if we boycott these elections, this will not be joyous for either us or for the democratic process. We must stay until the end of this electoral battle. Accordingly, I’ve decided to participate in the elections.

Why the optimism? In your appearances and media and electoral campaign, you seem confident of victory. What are the factors that support your optimism?

First of all, there is a collective conscience. We are people with a conscience, and we believe in rights, law, and justice. I completely believe that 16 million people in Istanbul or a large part of them will not let down Ekrem Imamoglu. This is what we see and notice because there’s no legal logic for the rerun. All the preparations for the elections were supervised by the government. I did not supervise anything. After they failed in the elections, they blamed us for the mistakes and held us responsible for them. You are the ones who spoke and described the elections as illegal and who said that those who supervised the elections committed violations. You, as a government, said that and not us.

Main opposition CHP's Imamoglu, who was elected mayor after the March 31 elections, addresses his supporters after the YSK decided to re-run the mayoral election. (Reuters)

Main opposition CHP's Imamoglu, who was elected mayor after the March 31 elections, addresses his supporters after the YSK decided to re-run the mayoral election. (Reuters)

I have, throughout the developments and the evaluation of what happened in the light of the decision to hold reruns, think that the citizens’ conscience, whether in Istanbul or Turkey in general, is in solidarity with me because they already know that I am the rightful winner and that I won the past elections. I think I will win in the upcoming elections. I am confident of this.

Do all the parties in Istanbul support you in the upcoming elections?

Since my nomination and appointment to run for elections in January, there were two opposition parties, my Republican People party, and the Good Party. These two parties already formed the nation's alliance. Since then, we have decided to enter the game of alliances in preparation for the elections. Naturally, I entered the elections because the party asked me to despite the fact that there were many candidates and many names that have been rumored to run for office. But did not.

The reality today is that many candidates withdrew from the elections either for political reasons, for personal reasons, or even to support me, and I am certainly very happy with this support.

I would like to tell you that some of my opponents supported me. How did this happen? I can tell you: the People's Alliance of the Justice and Development Party and the Nationalist Movement Party. I think some parties within this alliance have supported me without knowing it. I also think I will get the support of the People's Alliance. What I have started in January and where I will end up is very promising.

Are you at odds with the media? Why did you suggest the launch of an alternative media platform to the Anadolu news agency?

I did not mean the formation of a new news agency, the Anadolu news agency is a government agency. I requested the formation of a specific body to cover the elections.

What Anadolu did on March 31st was slanderous and scandalous. Something we’ve never seen before. They were publishing bad news. We showed how bad they were with us and we showed everyone how wrong they were. If the administration and the management Anadolu do not change, we will not be depending on them.

We will, therefore, share information in the upcoming election with the new media group as a news agency.

Why did the Istanbul elections become so important, even though it’s a local election, does it reflect the division between political parties?

First, I always wanted the elections to be fair, from January until the end of March, as we were running local elections. I was talking about the future of Istanbul and the future of the city. We talk about projects in Istanbul in general. But the ruling party ran the elections like a general election. They were talking about Turkey in general and not about Istanbul, they talked about the future of Turkey and the progress in Turkey. I mean, their rhetoric was more general, while I focused on the situation in Istanbul only.

From March 31st to May 6th, the date of the decision of the Supreme Electoral Council and the illegal position of the Anadolu news agency, as well as the illegal decision of Supreme Electoral Council made matters worse by their actions and their positions because the issue is at the level of Turkey and not at the level of Istanbul.

If we look at the issue from an angle other than the angle they are looking at, the subject of the Istanbul elections is the presence of democracy in Turkey, the presence of democratic representation of the political forces, all the opposition political parties since we are one of them, are in a struggle to maintain democracy in Turkey. If this struggle ceases to exist so will parties and political life.

Election officials are seen through a ballot box work at a polling station during local elections in Istanbul. (File photo: AFP)

Election officials are seen through a ballot box work at a polling station during local elections in Istanbul. (File photo: AFP)

If we do not defend these elections and our political presence, there will be no concept of elections or political forces.

Let me tell you that for a long time Turkey has witnessed a democratic struggle, where efforts have been made 100 years ago to establish a democratic and competitive democratic state. Great efforts have been made to stabilize democracy since then. Parliament has been the embodiment of the will of the people. Since the days of Abdul Hamid II, political struggle has been present to have the will of the people in power.

I talked with the Justice and Development Party because the current conflict is not personal but is a democratic struggle to stabilize the presence of parties.

If you lose the elections, will you accept the result, or will you object?

If the elections are fair and we lose, we will not have any objection. I mean, according to the conditions laid down and under the conditions that are subject to the elections, we will not object. If we give everything we have, we do our best and still, if we do not win, we will recognize our loss. We will try to understand why we lost and we will stand in respect for democracy and its input. Anyone who does not respect democracy does not respect the elections, like our competitors. They admitted in more than one occasion that I was ahead by the numbers of votes, but they did not respect the results.

We have tens of thousands of lawyers and tens of thousands of volunteers. If they agree that the electoral process is sound and that we lost, we will have no problem accepting it.

In general, we will take all measures with thousands of lawyers and volunteers and if the results appear, never doubt that we have other intentions.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:59 - GMT 06:59