AKP must make fundamental changes to regain votes - advertising campaign head

Turkey’s ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) must adopt a new discourse based on inclusivity and love to regain the support of voters, the advertising official who lead the opposition party’s successful local election campaign has said.

The secularist main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) won five of Turkey’s most populous provinces in the March 31 local elections thanks to its adoption of a new language which steered clear of aggressive and polarising discourse, Ateş İlyas Başsoy, the founder of FAYDA advertising agency, told left-wing newspaper Sözcü.

The CHP’s victories in the March polls include the financial hub of Istanbul and capital Ankara, both of which had been under control of AKP and its Islamist predecessors for 25 years.

The CHP had until recently closed itself off in its own ideological neighbourhood, said Başsoy, the author of a booklet titled “Radikal Sevgi,’’ (Radical love) that has been credited with revolutionising the opposition party’s approach.

“In the 2014 elections, the AKP and MHP had received 61 percent support. Now they get 51 percent; they have lost about 10 percentage points. The AKP has practically written a book on failure,’’ Başsoy said.

The advertising executive is one of many to point to ruling party’s increasingly polarising language as a driving force behind its sliding support, and said the CHP had avoided falling into the same trap by following his agency’s advice.

“Finding Ekrem İmamoğlu among all candidates (as the mayoral candidate for Istanbul) was critical,’’ said Başsoy.

İmamoğlu, a virtually unknown entity until the March 31 polls, had served as the mayor of İstanbul’s Beylikdüzü district since the last local elections in 2014.

The softly spoken 49-year-old politician has been lauded for his diverse appeal, which stands in contrast to the CHP’s traditionally staunch secularist stance. The mayor has even gained the approval of many of Turkey’s traditional and religiously inclined voters, despite their tendency to vote against the CHP. 

Nevertheless, the new opposition mayors will have to fight to build on their successes, Başsoy told Sözcü.

“The AKP must ponder on its loss and the CHP must carefully analyse why it won. If the new CHP mayors are not successful, this will mean another 25 years of the AKP in power,’’ said Başsoy.

Turkey’s next general elections are scheduled for 2023.