Ekrem İmamoğlu, the mayor of Turkey’s largest city of İstanbul and a member of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), has been the subject of harsh criticism for spending time with pro-government journalists.
Social media was abuzz with criticism of İmamoğlu last week after a photo posted on Twitter showed him on a tour bus with several pro-government journalists, including Nagehan Alçı and Ertuğrul Özkök.
Following the backlash on social media, İmamoğlu doubled down, using a Turkish saying that literally means he didn’t “give a damn” about the criticism.
At the helm of Turkey’s largest city and commercial hub, İmamoğlu is considered to be one of the most powerful potential rivals of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Because of the possibility of him winning against Erdoğan, some supporters are wary of criticizing him so harshly for speaking to the pro-government press.
Opposition voters: “Boohoo, the AKP media starve the opposition of oxygen, how will we ever win?”
Also opposition voters: “How dare an opposition candidate speak with the AKP media… This is a disgrace!” pic.twitter.com/5YPw10Exel
— Can Okar (@canokar) May 5, 2022
İmamoğlu’s style is likened by many to Erdoğan’s early years when he served as the mayor of İstanbul in the ’90s.
However, İmamoğlu’s dismissal of the criticism in a manner that resembled Erdoğan’s authoritarian behavior, was not lost on the opposition, which sees him as a viable alternative and resulted in even more scathing criticism.
Ekrem İmamoğlu, kendisini eleştirenlere:
Parmak sallayarak, "Akıllı olmaya davet ediyorum. Vız gelir tırıs gider. Hiç umurumda değil"
⚡Şafakta yeni bir Erdoğan'ın
Doğuş emareleri çaktı
— Prof. Dr. Salih KUK (@KukSalih) May 7, 2022
Following a reaction by CHP voters, İmamoğlu walked back his comment and apologized.
İBB Başkanı Ekrem İmamoğlu: Dün bir konuşmada yaptığım ‘vız gelir tırıs gider’ lafından dolayı özür diliyorum.@ekrem_imamoglu @istanbulbld pic.twitter.com/euJon8inP0
— Chp Çamçeşme (@chp_camcesme) May 7, 2022
In 2019 İmamoğlu initially won in local polls on March 31 by a narrow margin against ruling party candidate Binali Yıldırım and scored a much larger victory during the re-run on June 23.
In a possible race between İmamoğlu and Erdoğan, the İstanbul mayor would have a 10 percent lead against his opponent, according to a 2021 survey.