May 24 2019

Surveys show Turkey’s İmamoğlu will win Istanbul election rerun - report

Ekrem İmamoğlu, the candidate of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), is leading the race ahead of the Istanbul election rerun on June 23, according to three surveys the party conducted, secularist Cumhuriyet newspaper reported on Friday. 

The results of the surveys showed that İmamoğlu, who won an initial vote on March 31 in Turkey’s financial powerhouse by a narrow margin, is ahead of Binali Yıldırım, the mayoral candidate of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) by between 1.7 percentage points and 5 percentage points, Cumhuriyet said.

Turkey’s election council annulled the Istanbul election on May 6 after an appeal by the AKP which cited severe irregularities. The appeal process disturbed a significant amount of the AKP’s supporters, according to Bekir Ağırdır, who runs leading polling firm KONDA. He said 72 percent of Turkish voters see “justice” as an important issue that will define Turkey over the next decade. 

Though it is uncertain what percentage of those disturbed voters will support İmamoğlu on June 23, the March 31 election may have ended deep polarisation in the country, Ağırdır said in comments originally carried in left-wing newspaper Birgün and reported by Cumhuriyet. 

The harsh rhetoric of the coalition formed by the AKP and the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), labelling the opposition as enemies and terrorists, was one of the factors that affected the voters’ behaviour on March 31, Ağırdır said. As a result, the opposition, including the secularist voters of the CHP and the Islamist voters of the Felicity Party, consolidated their votes to form a bloc against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, he said. 

“(…) The moment Tayyip Erdoğan and Devlet Bahçeli (leader of the MHP) began espousing that rhetoric on stage, those on the other side became alarmed, consolidated,” the pollster said.

The economic downturn in the country is another important factor that affected the result of the March elections, according to Ağırdır. 

“At the moment there is an economic shakedown, which is stronger than the political rhetoric,” Ağırdır said. “People see the price of tomatoes when they are on the streets, but they then go home and watch television and see a totally different reality,” he said, referring to the dominance government-affiliated media outlets in Turkey.