Turkey's ruling party visits Islamist opposition ahead of Istanbul election

Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Friday visited the Istanbul headquarters of the Islamist opposition party two days ahead of Istanbul election rerun for a new mayor, Turkish news site T24 reported.

The Islamist Felicity Party’s deputy chair, Ömer Faruk Yazıcı, downplayed the significance of the meeting, saying that despite pro-government news outlets’ description of it as a “critical” meeting, the party’s voters would not be swayed to vote for the AKP.

The Felicity Party won over 100,000 votes in the original March 31 election.

While that tally was far behind the candidates from the ruling and main opposition parties, the slim margin that decided the first Istanbul race proved that every vote is crucial in the election.

Turkey’s election council annulled the March 31 vote, which main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu won by 13,000 votes, after the AKP complained that fraud had taken place.

The Felicity Party was critical of the AKP’s actions after the first vote, and its candidate for Istanbul announced he would be ready to stand down and support the ousted opposition mayor. The party’s decision to run again has been interpreted as an effort to draw Islamist voters away from the AKP in the rerun on Sunday.

The ruling party ran a divisive campaign ahead of the March 31 elections, which it called a “matter of survival” and painted as a fight between the government and its allies and “terrorists” in league with the opposition.

In the lead up to that vote, Erdoğan repeatedly accused the Felicity Party of aligning with "terrorists" over its tacit support of main opposition candidates.

On election day in March, two election observers of the Felicity Party died in a brawl with AKP members in the southeast Turkish city of Malatya.

The AKP softened its rhetoric considerably during the rerun, and has attempted to reach out to some segments of voters who were alienated by their March 31 campaign.

A week ago, the AKP's Istanbul mayoral candidate Binali Yıldırım visited Milli Gazete, known for its close ties with the Felicity Party, and apologised for any harsh comments by his party against the Islamist opposition party.