Within days of being appointed interim mayor of Turkey’s largest city Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya has sacked a number of advisors of the man who actually won Istanbul’s mayoral election.
The T24 news portal reported on Wednesday that among those dismissed was Murat Ongun, press aide to Ekrem Imamoglu, who won the Istanbul mayoral election in the March 31 location government elections.
Imamoglu, from the main secularist opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), defeated the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Binali Yildirim, a former prime minister of Turkey.
Before he was able to complete his first month in the office, Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) yielded to an extraordinary objection filed by the AKP, which demanded that the March 31 Istanbul mayoral election results be annulled and that the election be held again.
As part of the YSK’s ruling in favor of AKP, Imamoglu had to quit his office as the elected mayor and return his official mandate, which he received 17 days after the elections due to vote recounts, also demanded by the governing party.
The council stated that 3,755 polling officials’ not being public servants, as is required by the law, was their legal basis for accepting the AKP appeal. The AKP had claimed wide-spread voting irregularities in Istanbul.
Yerlikaya, who replaced Imamoglu following the electoral board’s decision on Monday, discharged a number of advisors employed in the municipality by Imamoglu, including his press aide Ongun.
According to a report by Sputnik Turkiye news portal on Wednesday, Yerlikaya also allowed a book fair organized by the Turkiye Diyanet Foundation (TDV), a charity group linked to Turkey’s state Religious Affairs Directorate, to take place in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Square.
State-run Anadolu news agency (AA) reported that Imamoglu did not give permission to the book fair, claiming that the decision had been encouraged by the current administration of the municipality, which is run by the ruling AKP.
The interim mayor also made some changes in the official Twitter account of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and deleted the tweets posted by Imamoglu during the 17 days he was in the office.
Yerlikaya also unfollowed Imamoglu as well as some opposition party leaders and mayors on Twitter.
Among those unfollowed by the municipality’s official account are Good Party (IP) leader Meral Aksener, Felicity Party (SP) leader Temel Karamollaoglu and Izmir Mayor Tunc Soyer along with Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavas from CHP.
A number of politicians, journalists, legal experts, academics, and artists in Turkey and across the world condemned the YSK over the decision, arguing that it usurps people’s will.
Critics claim that Imamoglu has a high chance of emerging as the victor of the Istanbul re-run, which is scheduled to be held on June 23, provided that it takes place under legally correct conditions.