Istanbul mayor İmamoğlu facing uphill battle against AKP - Deutsche Welle

Opposition mayor of Istanbul Ekrem İmamoğlu in his mere five months in office has witnessed the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) do everything in its power to maintain its influence and put obstacles in his way, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle said on Monday.

Elected as mayor of Turkey’s financial powerhouse on June 23, İmamoğlu’s time as mayor of Istanbul, run by the ruling AKP and its Islamist predecessors since 1994, has proven to be a daunting task.

State-owned banks, including Vakıfbank, Ziraat Bank and Halkbank, have refused to cooperate with İmamoğlu in his plans to expand the city's infrastructure, in particular the subway system, DW said. 

This is no surprise given the banks are protected by a sovereign wealth fund chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, it added. 

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) mayor has had to look abroad for help with an underground transport project, eventually securing 110 million euros ($121 million) from Deutsche Bank, but facing ridicule from the Turkish government in the process.  

The AKP is also trying to keep its grip on the money raised before the CHP mayor came to power, it said, pointing to plans by the Ministry of Urbanisation and Environment to transfer municipal authority over development plans on the famed Bosporus to a department of the central government.

İmamoğlu’s desire to utilise the unused warehouses of Istanbul’s main train stations on either side of the Bosporus strait, Haydarpaşa and Sirkeci, was blocked by the commission, which disqualified the Istanbul municipality from the tender.

A foundation with close ties with President Erdoğan and his family, the Archers' Foundation (or Okçular Vakfı) won instead, prompting  the Istanbul mayor the announce that he would take the matter to court and file a criminal complaint.

Despite the uphill battle he is facing, İmamoğlu is gaining popularity.

A poll published by PİAR this week found İmamoğlu in the lead against Erdoğan with 44.5 percent of participants saying they would vote for İmamoğlu compared to 39.7 percent who said they would support Erdoğan if Turkey held a presidential election. 

İmamoglu, who is widely expected to run for president in 2023, is unfazed by the AKP’s efforts, DW said.