An affiliate company of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB) allegedly used workers to campaign in favor of a candidate from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) for the upcoming Istanbul rerun election, online news portal 16punto reported on Friday.
In May, Nuri Baskapan was reportedly fired from his job at an IBB-affiliated company, Agac Incorporation or Istanbul Tree and Landscape Inc., because he posted opposing political messages on his social media account and published videos showing the workers of IBB campaigning in favor of Binali Yildirim, AKP’s Istanbul mayoral candidate, allegedly at the behest of the company executives, for the June 23 rerun mayoral election in Kayasehir district of Istanbul.
Ekrem Imamoglu from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) won the Istanbul mayoral poll on March 31, beating the AKP candidate by a small margin.
The Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) ruled a rerun vote in Istanbul at the request of AKP, toppling Imamoglu after a few days of taking office as mayor.
The published video footage shows Baskapan talking to his former colleagues at Agac Inc. while they were preparing for the AKP campaign, packing Agac-produced gifts such as roses, etc. to be handed out to potential voters.
During the interviews with the IBB workers, they were recorded making political comments in favor of AKP and its leader President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well as criticizing the opposition CHP’s Imamoglu. “This [the June 23 rerun] election is so critical. We [AKP] must not lose,” an Agac worker said in the footage.
Another Agac employee is heard referring to CHP’s Imamoglu as ‘mafia’. In the report, 16punto claimed that Agac’s workers were notably targeting voters who had not cast votes in the March 31 local elections, as the workers were seen to be in possession of voter lists that showed this.
“They [AKP’s Agac Inc. administration] fired me because I posted political messages [on social media]. However, they also made 290 IBB [Agac Inc.] personnel take to the streets for AKP campaigns. Besides that, they use Agac’s vehicles and products [flowers, roses] for that purpose,” claimed Baskapan.
Another reason for Baskapan being fired in May was a social media post that showed a 50 lira (8.5$) donation towards Imamoglu’s rerun campaign, and another that criticized the YSK’s ruling on the Istanbul vote annulment.
Agac Inc. is a subsidiary company of the IBB, which is responsible for landscaping, ornamental plantation, and maintenance of the IBB parks and gardens.
AKP campaign aimed at people in need
Similarly, the IBB employees have been deployed to two newly-established coordination centers, one in Istanbul’s Anatolian side and the other on the European side, in a bid to find disadvantaged people and ask them for their votes in return for their needs to be met, according to reports published on Friday by Independent Turkish branch and Tele1 news.
The news reports revealed notes, allegedly taken by the IBB employees, informing their bosses about the visits and calls regarding the campaign.