Justice and Development (AK) Party candidate Binali Yildirim (R) and Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Ekrem Imamoglu (R)

Justice and Development (AK) Party candidate Binali Yildirim (R) and Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Ekrem Imamoglu (R)

Istanbul mayoral campaigns heat up

The level of polemic in Istanbul's mayoral election campaign remained limited in the month of Ramadan. The general campaign discourse, though, is built on positive messages for both sides.

The level of polemic in Istanbul’s mayoral election campaign remained limited in the month of Ramadan. The general campaign discourse, though, is built on positive messages for both sides.

Unlike March 31, all means of communication have been used to individually reach out to voters this time. Even people living in Anatolian cities have mobilized to influence their fellow citizens in Istanbul. However, this election is a race between the Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) Binali Yıldırım, running as the candidate of the People’s Alliance with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Ekrem İmamoğlu, the joint candidate of the Nation Alliance with the Good Party (IP). The essence of the contest is about who can manage Istanbul.

In this respect, I expect a fierce debate between the two candidates in the last two weeks. We could gauge the tussle, which is already running on social media, even more clearly if the candidates appear on a joint TV program. Regarding personal aspects of contention, Yıldırım’s calm and humble temperament is an advantage, while İmamoğlu’s exaggerated discourse has started crumbling. He creates small stories that far from hide his anger. It seems that he is not accustomed to opposing remarks.

In fact, the debate between Yıldırım and İmamoğlu has two levels. First, municipal work, i.e., the ambit of experience, investments and projects. It is a matter of touching the daily lives of Istanbul’s people. In relation to this, which was not widely addressed in the March 31 campaigns, Yıldırım brings new projects and pledges to the table. However, it is certain that the main debate between the two candidates will be on polemics. The issues of “victimization,” “extravagance” and “thievery in the polls” are the main issues. Yıldırım is a victim of fraud who is standing on solid ground. This is because, as a result of the recounting of nearly 10 percent of the vote, the vote difference between the mayoral candidates of the two parties dropped to 16,000 votes. Yıldırım also points to fraud in district election boards, while İmamoğlu presents the re-election as a “usurpation of rights.”

The biggest difference between the two candidates is their attitude toward Turkey’s struggles in recent years. Their attitude differs beyond any kind of polemic. Yıldırım hails from rich experiences and struggles. He is entering the Istanbul election race as a former prime minister who resisted the July 15 coup attempt.

On the other hand, the CHP candidate has been unable to even make a proper statement against the PKK and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), who have announced their support for him. The PKK and FETÖ support are matters that will surely haunt İmamoğlu. Yıldırım also pointed this out on a recent TV program, saying they challenged villains on July 15 while the CHP candidate was in Brussels. In brief, an intense polemic storm is brewing following Ramadan Bayram. As a side note, I would like to take this opportunity to wish a belated happy Bayram to our nation and the Islamic world.

[Daily Sabah, 11 June 2019]

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