Verdict against İmamoğlu: now more than ever?

Tens of thousands of people have gathered in Istanbul to protest over the conviction of their mayor. Ekrem İmamoğlu of the opposition CHP party was sentenced to two and a half years in prison on Wednesday for allegedly insulting the country's Supreme Election Council. Even if the opposition is now united on the streets, it faces a difficult decision, commentators point out.

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Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Opposition in a bind

The six-party alliance which has joined forces against Erdoğan now faces a difficult choice, the Süddeutsche Zeitung notes:

“The already difficult question of which leading candidate to send into the elections has become even more complex. The Istanbul mayor? On the one hand he's more popular than ever after the verdict, which is perceived as unjust. But on the other, he's in danger of being thrown out of the race for good if he is banned from politics after accelerated appeal proceedings. Or should the alliance choose a different candidate who's less popular and thus has less chance of winning? This question could weaken the unity of the alliance. To Erdoğan's advantage.”

Sözcü (TR) /

Nominate him now!

The court may now have taken the decision of who will become presidential candidate out of the opposition's hands, Sözcü suspects:

“The decision to remove Ekrem Imamoğlu from the political stage made by the government with the help of the politicised judiciary is also an admission that Imamoğlu is the candidate Tayyip Erdoğan fears most in the presidential race. ... In this case, the opposition of six parties - without waiting for the Court of Appeal and the Court of Cassation - should immediately declare İmamoğlu as their presidential candidate. Let the government worry about the rest!”

Cumhuriyet (TR) /

This is a trap!

To choose Imamoğlu as the presidential candidate now would be the wrong approach, the Kemalist daily Cumhuriyet counters:

“If this happens, the process that results in Imamoğlu's ban from politics could be finalised within six months, shortly before the election, and his candidacy could be blocked. Moreover, Istanbul's municipal government would be handed back to the AKP. ... This is a trap! What the six opposition parties should do is to immediately agree on a single joint candidate, end the discussion and rally around him. That is the smartest way forward.”

T24 (TR) /

Vote the autocrat out of office

This scandalous verdict could serve to mobilise opposition voters, columnist Hasan Cemal writes on T24:

“This is not only a blow against the judiciary, but also against the will and the voice of the people. ... Once again we see how the Turkish judicial system has been turned into an institution of obedience. In other words, it is in the hands of the 'one man', of the palace. ... A storm of excitement is brewing inside me. For the first time in a long time I feel new hope. Yes, we will not give up, yes, we will resist for democracy, justice and freedom, and with the votes of the people we will send this one man home.”

Hürriyet (TR) /

Erdoğan won't like this verdict either

The decision is not in the spirit of democracy, columnist Abdulkadir Selvi criticises in the pro-government daily Hürriyet:

“I believe that politics should be shaped at election rallies and at the ballot box, not by means of political bans imposed by courts. ... Not only Ekrem İmamoğlu will pay the price for this, but also our democracy and politics. ... I think that President Erdoğan is also unhappy with this verdict. What's going on here? What is someone trying to achieve through the judiciary? We should not forget that this country is led by Erdoğan, who was once thrown into prison and banned from politics for reading a poem.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Harsh sentence could backfire

If the appeal process drags on until after the elections, the incident could actually strengthen İmamoğlu's position, speculates Corriere della Sera:

“Just like in 2019, when the mayoral elections in the mega metropolis were annulled, giving İmamoğlu a landslide victory six months later. An appeal will be launched in the next few days, which will result in the suspension of the ruling, allowing the mayor to remain in office until the appeals court makes its decision. ... Yesterday he received the declarations of solidarity of all parties opposed to Erdoğan, and even the former president, Abdullah Gül, founder of the AKP, who has distanced himself from Erdoğan, criticised the verdict.”

Liberal (GR) /

Emulating Putin

Liberal fears that the Turkish government will follow the Kremlin's example not only when it comes to intimidating the opposition:

“Erdoğan, who is now even threatening Athens, is 'purging' the opposition in his country - as Putin did before him - to ensure his re-election. ... However, we fear that the vast majority of our fellow citizens, while seeing that Erdoğan will stop at nothing to win the elections, do not think about the danger of an attack on our country.”