Turkish opposition Istanbul mayoral candidate Ekrem Imamoglu is confident of winning the re-elections against the candidate of ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), former prime minister and speaker Ben Ali Yildirim, with a margin greater than that of March 31 elections.
Earlier, Turkey's Supreme Election Council canceled the mayoral polls' result and called for a re-run later in June.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Imamoglu said his confidence in winning next Sunday's re-election stems from the people’s trust, especially after the Council decided to ignore their will.
The newspaper asked the candidate whether he believes the Council was influenced by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, especially after he questioned Imamoglu's victory over Yildirim's. Imamoglu voiced his conviction that the Council could not provide evidence of voters' fraud and manipulation and was pressured into making a decision that violates democracy.
He explained that the ballot card contained 4 voting fields for the mayor, heads of the towns and neighborhoods, and members of municipal councils, however, results of mayoral elections were the only ones canceled, which seemed intentional.
The former mayor chose hope as the slogan for his campaign, saying he believes: “people have lost all hope and gave up to despair until they saw that surrendering to the stalemate in the country led to very negative consequences and had a serious impact on their lives.”
Asked if he benefited from the 18-day period as Istanbul’s mayor before the Council canceled the results, Imamoglu indicated that even though it was not a long period, it revealed funds were being wasted in aspects that do not benefit citizens or contribute to improving services or facilitate their lives.
Imamoglu noted that while serving as Beylikduzu’s mayor, he noticed that people are looking for change and for projects that meet their basic needs.
In his elections program, Imamoglu focuses on social services and solutions for poverty and unemployment, yet, AKP said he would not be able to finance these projects and that the municipal budget will not be sufficient. He, however, claims that his team studied these projects and based on his experience as Beylikduzu’s mayor, he will be able to execute every item on that program.
The candidate told the newspaper that Turkey is a country that lacks some resources, so it should be aware of the budget deficit that could damage its institutions.
“Our war, after winning the election, would be targeting abuses in various forms. We proved funds misuse in the municipality of Istanbul and we shared our findings with the citizens to see how things were managed during the AKP ruling,” he noted.
There are about half a million Syrian refugees residing in Istanbul, which creates social problems. Asharq Al-Awsat asked Imamoglu about his plans to address this issue, especially as it is being exploited politically.
The candidate asserted this is a humanitarian situation that should not be exploited politically.
“I do not imagine there is a person who does not want to return to his country,” he noted.
He indicated that various parties, the government, and the international community should work to reach a solution to the Syrian crisis, and end this situation where people find themselves forced to leave their country and search for a safe new place.
Imamoglu addressed this issue before, especially after touring every neighborhood and street and witnessing the tragedies Syrians suffer, namely homeless children, many of which do not attend school.
He explained that first, assistance should be provided to all Syrians and not just some of them by increasing social support, particularly for children and women. He also indicated that refugees' situations should be studied to determine whether they want to stay in Istanbul or return home.
“If I become mayor of Istanbul again I will hold on to my calls for peace in Syria,” vowed Imamoglu.
Imamoglu and Yildirim will have a televised debate on Sunday night, which is unusual in Turkey. However, the opposition figure asserted he was the one who called for it and he has no doubt about winning the elections, or else he wouldn’t have gone through it again.
“People trust the honest candidate and I think that 16 million in Istanbul, and not only those who have the right to vote, trust me in everything. People in Turkey in general, and not just in Istanbul, are tired of lying and manipulating that have been going on for more than 15 years and looking for someone they can trust.”
In case he doesn’t win, Imamoglu indicated he will accept the results and congratulate Yildirim only if the elections were fair, because this is one of the requirements of democracy.
Over the past two weeks, Imamoglu had been attacked for his national loyalty with some questioning his family origins. He believes that people want the truth and they are aware these are just smearing campaigns that reflect that other party’s fear.
Imamoglu indicated he wouldn’t bother and respond to such “desperate” claims, adding that he will respect people’s choice no matter the outcome in Sunday’s elections.
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