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On Kati Piri's “threatening language” and the removal of mayors

On 6 September 2019, Kati Piri, a Dutch Member of the European Parliament and former Turkey rapporteur, tweeted that Turkey’s Minister of the Interior Suleyman Soylu has threatened to remove Istanbul’s mayor Ekrem Imamoglu from his position. Piri asserted this would have "very serious consequences for EU-Turkey relations.”

Apart from the fact that the language used by Piri is itself threatening, it should be noted that the Turkish Ministry of the Interior has a legal right to suspend mayors from their posts, replacing them with a trustee. The Ministry of the Interior shall invoke this right according to Article 45 of the Municipality Law.

According to the law, the Ministry of the Interior shall suspend a mayor if he/she were to leave the office for 20 consecutive days, lose his eligibility to get elected, or commit a crime which would cause him/her to lose the eligibility to get elected, e.g. terror crimes. In such case, one could go as far as to say that it is the duty of the Ministry of the Interior to remove the mayor from his/her post, rather than solely being a choice at its discretion.

Indeed, this practice has been used in the past. The vast majority of the mayors were suspended for abusing their posts in order to aid and abet the PKK terrorist organization. There have even been cases where municipality trucks were used for bomb attacks against the security forces, as well as examples where explosives and weapons were carried using municipality vehicles. In such grave cases, the mayors were suspended.

Hence, the suspension is not invoked arbitrarily by the Ministry of the Interior but is instead applied when the necessary criteria, as prescribed by law, are met.

Therefore, removal from the office is not a case-specific practice invented for Istanbul’s mayor Imamoglu, but a legal consequence for any mayor who fails to act in accordance with the Municipality Law.

Additionally, the Minister of the Interior Suleyman Soylu asserted that this is not currently on the agenda, as the conditions required to suspend a mayor and appoint a trustee, like having terror links, are not present in Istanbul Municipality. There is no threat to Mr. Imamoglu unless one such condition were to arise, as the law dictates.

In the end, it was Kati Piri who acted with bias, using threatening language on the issue and claiming that such an internal act by the Turkish government would have “very serious consequences” for EU-Turkey relations.

We strongly believe it would be better for everybody to try and think twice before reaching accusatory conclusions on Turkey.