İmamoğlu leading the Istanbul mayoral race, four pollsters say

The opposition’s candidate, Ekrem İmamoğlu, is leading the race against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s Binali Yıldırım ahead of the Istanbul mayoral election rerun on June 23, according to the latest surveys of four different pollsters, secularist daily Cumhuriyet said on Thursday.

Istanbul’s voters will head to the polls once again on June 23 to elect their new mayor, after the Supreme Election Council annulled the 31 March vote following an appeal from the AKP that cited severe electoral irregularities.

İmamoğlu, who won the March 31 vote with a low margin of around 13,000 votes, is leading the race again by a small margin, pollsters said. 

İmamoğlu will win the election on June 23 with a 1 to 2 percent difference, according to Mehmet Ali Kulat, the head of government-affiliated pollster MAK. 

“For the first time, the AKP is following a defence-focused election strategy in the polls. In other elections, it was always a proactive party. If it continues like that till June 23, it will create serious problems for them,” Cumhuriyet quoted Kulat as saying during a television programme on Habertürk. 

The ruling party and its candidate Yıldırım have repeatedly said that they lost the March election in Istanbul because their votes were stolen. Yet, according to Kulat, even the AKP voters do not believe such statements. 

İhsan Aktaş, the head of pollster Genar, said Turks will face a neck-and-neck race on the evening of June 23. “Binali Yıldırım started the race from ahead on March 31, but on June 23 the balance shifted toward Ekrem İmamoğlu,” the pollster said.

İmamoğlu has increased his votes by 1-2 percent, but this increase is below expectations, said Murat Sarı, the head of Konsensus.

“Contrary to other opinions, I think that voter turnout will fall in this election,” Sarı said adding that voters from smaller parties which withdrew from the election might choose to abstain.

The ruling party’s biggest mistake in the March elections was its harsh rhetoric against the voters of the predominantly Kurdish Democratic People’s Party (HDP), said Sarı. “The situation will not change much for HDP voters on June 23, the majority of them will vote for İmamoğlu,” he said.

“In our first survey, Ekrem İmamoğlu was ahead of Binali Yıldırım by six or seven points. But this fell to two to three points in our subsequent surveys,” said Adil Gür, head of A&G Consultancy.