Istanbul revote to provide roadmap for winning tight urban races – Arab Weekly

How the ruling and opposition parties canvas individual streets, neighbourhoods and districts in Istanbul will decide the victor of the city’s June 23 mayoral revote, wrote journalist and author Stephen Starr in the Arab Weekly.

Turkey’s ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost four of the five most populous provinces in the country in the March 31 polls, marking the greatest defeat for the party in its 17 years in power.

Istanbul, where the candidate for the secularist opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Ekrem İmamoğlu won by a narrow margin, putting an end to 25 years of Islamist rule in the city, is set for a redo next month, after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling party appealed the polls.

Istanbul does not fit the pattern of large cities, known as being epicentres for liberalism and free-thinking, Starr wrote, noting that the suburbs and central districts of the city of 16 million are home to liberal and conservative voters alike.

"It’s home to a large leftist community, conservatives of varying hues, anarchists and members of the far right. It is this fusion of political affiliations and small-town loyalties that make it such a hard place to nail down when it comes to predicting how individual districts will vote,’’ the article said.

Erdoğan launched his political career in this megacity, where held the post of mayor from 1994-98 and since the 2000s, the poor and working-class Turks from the country east have flocked to Istanbul, it highlighted.

Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) ruled the city for almost three decades, it said, modernising it and noticeably improving the day-to-day lives of its residents.

Underlining that not all secularist opposition CHP voters are raving leftists and not all ruling AKP followers are religious conservatives, the article noted that "Just because Erdogan crippled Turkey’s democratic institutions doesn’t mean that his opponents, the followers of CHP mayoral candidate Ekrem Imamoglu, are democratic purists.’’

As such, it is difficult to determine how voters will cast their ballots on the June 23.

The ruling AKP, despite almost full support of Turkish media, appears to be struggling, Starr wrote, even though AKP's mayoral candidate, former transportation minister Binali Yıldırım, has signed off some of the biggest infrastructural projects of the country’s largest city. 

Scholars, politicos and campaigners would do well to study both sides’ election campaigns to understand the tools necessary to win tight urban races, it concluded.