Issued by CEMO Center - Paris
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Old ‘religion’ game: Maqam Ibrahim ring makes rounds of Istanbul

Monday 17/June/2019 - 01:32 PM
The Reference
Mohammed Abdul Ghaffar

The recent Turkish municipal elections in March 2019 dealt a blow to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost a large number of seats, most notably the post of Istanbul mayor, in favor of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Religion: Erdogan's old game

The CHP succeeded in taking over the leaderships of a number of municipalities, including Ankara. In Istanbul, CHP candidate Ekrem Imamoglu won the mayoral election, defeating AKP candidate Binali Yildirim, who was previously Turkey's prime minister.

Erdogan has tried to preserve these and other strategic cities, sometimes by preventing the winning candidates from taking office and accusing them of belonging to the opposition Fethullah Gulen party, and sometimes by issuing decisions from the High Electoral Commission for a re-vote, as in Istanbul.

The Turkish president did not stop at this point, but he pushed the candidates of his party and senior leaders to exploit religion, the trump card heavily relied upon internally and externally. Yildirim claimed that the ring he wore was a gift from his son that is decorated with a piece of stone from the Maqam Ibrahim, which is located at the Kaaba in Mecca, according to his comments on a television program on the channel ATV.

Religious character and distortion of the opposition

Yildirim did not explain the reasons or mechanisms by which his son obtained this stone or how he managed to get it from its very guarded location. It is clear that the former prime minister wants to earn a good image as a conservative cleric who can keep the municipality of Istanbul from being lost and prevent corruption and profiteering during his leadership.

This came a few days after the statements of AKP National Defense Ministr Nurettin Canikli on Tuesday, May 11, 2019, during which he confirmed that CHP candidate Imamoglu is not a Muslim, but a Christian of Greek origin, and he was paid by third parties for this matter.

This confirms that the religious campaign led by the AKP during the run-off in the upcoming elections is a systematic campaign, seeking to influence the public of the Turkish people, with the aim of restoring control of the party to the state's most prominent city and the one closest to the heart of President Erdogan.