Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), has called on the mayor of İstanbul to resign, accusing him of not managing the heavy snowfall in the city last week and going out to dinner with a diplomat instead, Turkish media outlets reported.
“Our wish is for the resignation of the mayor and the opening of the way for democracy,” Bahçeli said at a party meeting in parliament on Tuesday.
İstanbul was hit by heavy snow that began last Monday, leading to disruptions citywide, with thousands of people stuck in traffic and unable to get home.
İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), was harshly criticized by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), an election ally of the MHP, and its supporters for failing to take the steps in advance of the snowstorm and properly coordinating snow plowing in the city.
In addition, video footage was released by the pro-government media last week showing İmamoğlu dining with Dominick Chilcott, the UK ambassador to Turkey, at a restaurant on Monday, when the city was buried in snow. Pro-government circles used the dinner as a pretext to attack İmamoğlu, claiming he wasn’t coordinating snow clearance but instead was enjoying dinner with the ambassador when thousands were unable to get home.
The footage of the mayor was recorded by the MOBESE system, which has a vast network of CCTV cameras spanning cities and towns across Turkey, with the city of İstanbul alone monitored by some 21,000 cameras.
İmamoğlu said the meeting with the ambassador was scheduled almost a month earlier and that he had filed complaints against the people who released the video footage of him.
Bahçeli said İmamoğlu was able to remember his meeting with the British ambassador, arranged a month ago, but unable to heed the warnings of meteorologists about the heavy snow.
“The residents of İstanbul don’t have to tolerate an irresponsible paper tiger. İstanbul was made to suffer. The people of the city were stranded on the roads, the mayor went to a fish restaurant accompanied by a snow plow and has no regrets,” said Bahçeli.
The MHP leader also criticized İmamoğlu for reportedly saying the dinner with the ambassador was as important as dealing with the snow.
“How can this city be entrusted to a person who cares more about an ambassador than its 16 million residents?” said Bahçeli.
İmamoğlu ended the years-long rule of the ruling AKP in İstanbul by defeating the party’s candidate in the 2019 local elections.
In addition to frequent criticism by AKP and MHP politicians and pro-government media outlets, İmamoğlu is also a target of judicial harassment. Earlier this month he appeared in court on charges of insulting election officials in 2019.