The mayor of Istanbul, a young politician who is as ambitious as he is charismatic, is sentenced to imprisonment and banned from politics in a politically motivated trial on flimsy grounds. He has to give up his post and even spends a few months in prison.
In the short term, those in power seem to have gotten rid of a dangerous challenger. In the long term, however, they have created a politician who nothing and nobody can stop. It's 1998. And the deposed mayor's name is Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Almost a quarter of a century later, history seems to be repeating itself. Except that Erdogan is now at the head of a regime even more autocratic than Turkey in the late 1990s. And in the role of the challenger is the Social Democrat Ekrem Imamoglu. If the sentence of two and a half years in prison is upheld in the last instance, he will have to give up his post as mayor. And there is no doubt who will make this decision in the banana republic of Tayyipistan: Erdogan and no one else.
But Imamoglu already proved in the 2019 local elections that he is a fighter. Together with the then Istanbul party leader Canan Kaftancioglu - who was sentenced to almost five years in prison in the spring - he rolled up his sleeves after his victory was revoked and celebrated a triumph in the re-election scheduled by Erdogan.
Now Erdogan was probably afraid that Imamoglu could repeat this success in the presidential and parliamentary elections next year. But trying to oust him from office in this shabby way could have bad consequences.
Because the Turks like to stick with the powerful. But they also harbor a romantic weakness for the weak, of which Erdogan himself is the best example. He built his whole career not least on this sacrifice bonus; even today, when he rules the country more autocratically than anyone since Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century, he likes to present himself as persecuted.
That should be over now. Because unlike the Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas, who has been behind bars for years despite clear judgments from the European Court of Human Rights, Imamoglu has the potential to unite a majority of voters behind him.
Does this herald the end of the Erdogan regime? Perhaps dictatorships are not as indestructible as dictatorships would like them to be. But usually more tenacious than the Democrats would like.
One detail is still interesting: Erdogan was sentenced at the time for "incitement to hatred" and "overthrowing the secular order". The current regime is content with less and accuses Imamoglu of "insulting the electoral commission". Not only despots, but also crybabies.