Turkey’s Erdoğan says pollsters’ Istanbul rerun surveys are manipulated

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Thursday that surveys by Turkish pollsters showing the opposition candidate far ahead in the rerun of the Istanbul mayoral election had been manipulated.

The real poll will take place on Sunday when the election is held, pro-government Sabah newspaper quoted the president as saying.

Voters in Istanbul will head to the polls on Sunday to choose their mayor for the second time this year, after Turkey’s Supreme Election Council ruled in favour of an appeal launched by the the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and annulled the March 31 polls in the city.

Several pollsters have put the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP)’s Ekrem İmamoğlu ahead in the race. If the predictions pan out, İmamoğlu will reclaim the mayor’s mandate that he held for less than three weeks after beating his AKP rival by a slim margin in the first race. 

“There are manipulations in election surveys. They are conducted according to orders. The real survey will be conducted on Sunday, this will give the most ideal result,” Erdoğan said during a briefing with foreign reporters. 

“We will accept the results, ultimately these polls are symbolic,” T24 news site quoted Erdoğan as saying in relation to Sunday polls.

İbrahim Uslu, the head of Turkish pollster ANAR, said last week the two leading candidates for the Istanbul mayor’s seat were still neck-and-neck in the race. Konda, one of Turkey’s leading pollsters, said on Wednesday that İmamoğlu would win Istanbul’s mayoral vote with 54 percent of the vote to 45 percent won by his AKP rival, Binali Yıldırım.

Influential Turkish pollster Metropoll put the CHP candidate 10 points ahead of his rival, Turkish independent news outlet Gazete Duvar reported.

Another well-known pollster, Gezici, on Thursday announced that it would not share its survey results with the public, adding that pollsters had been negatively affected from the deep polarisation in the country. 

The pollster’s head, Murat Gezici, told Voice of America that his company had said before the March 31 vote that the result in Istanbul would be the subject of discussion for months. 

“Again, in a similar way, there will be an election result in the polls ahead which we will discuss for weeks, for months, but this should be managed in a sound way,” Gezici said.

According to Gezici, due to the polarisation in the country, the results could lead to unrest similar to that witnessed during the 2013 Gezi protests, the biggest anti-government demonstrations since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Islamist government came to power in 2002.

“There may be a result that will not make either the opposition or the government happy,” the pollster said.