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Apr 17 2019

Turkish pro-gov't media lost for words as opposition mayor confirmed in Istanbul

Pro-government media outlets in Turkey chose to either ignore or criticise Wednesday’s confirmation of opposition candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu as mayor of Istanbul.

The secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate was granted an official mandate 17 days after the local elections of March 31, following weeks of appeals and recounts in the city of 16 million by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

A Haber referred to Wednesday’s decision by Provincial Election Council as ‘’controversial,’’ noting that the body had made the decision during an ongoing extraordinary appeal by the ruling AKP for a rerun of the Istanbul polls.

Another pro-government daily, Takvim, directly called the Supreme Election Council (YSK)’s decision to authorise İmamoğlu as mayor unlawful, calling the CHP “thieves” and suggesting the YSK was protecting the main opposition party.

Takvim’s piece reeled off a list of the AKP’s complaints about the voting process, which the party says amounts to organised electoral fraud.

Islamist newspaper Yeni Akit took a jab at İmamoğlu for being boastful when arriving to receive his mandate.  ‘’İmamoğlu arrived to receive his mandate with swagger,’’ it said.

Star newspaper quoted lawyer Avukat Mehmet Sarı, who stressed that the door is not closed for appeals on the polls in İstanbul.  '’ If there are clear legal assessments made, the YSK may scrap the process and cancel the mandate,’’ it quoted Sarı as saying.

İbrahim Karagül, the chief editor of the Islamist pro-Erdoğan daily Yeni Şafak, posted forceful criticism to the new mayor on Twitter shortly before he was confirmed, accusing İmamoğlu of being brought to his new position by a criminal network. He has since deleted the post.

“Even if they give you the official certificate, you’ll never be the legitimate person for that seat,” Karagül said, channelling the ruling party’s accusations of electoral fraud.

“Istanbul will never be surrendered to the supporters of military tutelage who won you (that seat),” he said.

Yet the crowds that turned out to see İmamoğlu receive his certificate told a different story.

Thousands crowded around the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality to see the newly authorised mayor and witness the end of a saga that turned the mayor’s certificate – mazbata in Turkish – into the topic of front-page news for 17 days.

CHP lawmaker Barış Yarkadaş posted images of the crowds on Twitter with a note, “Istanbul flocked to Saraçhane.”

While several stations did cover İmamoğlu’s appointment, and hundreds of thousands watched via live stream, NTV, CNN Türk and TRT Haber television stations ran coverage of Turkish first Lady Emine Erdoğan as she spoke at the World Humanitarian Forum in London.

The preference of pro-government channels to simply ignore news items focused on the opposition in favour of blanket coverage favouring the AKP has been a source of concern and criticism for years.

Months of one-sided coverage in the run-up to the March 31 local elections prompted CNN to promise it would train its Turkish affiliate, CNN Türk, to live up to the brand’s standards.