Turkey’s main opposition party to run a ‘silent campaign’ for Istanbul election rerun

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) will conduct a silent campaign that will target neighbourhood organisations and local opinion leaders for Istanbul mayoral election rerun on June 23, the Voice of America reported on Friday. 

The CHP’s Ekrem İmamoğlu won the mayoral race in Istanbul in March 31 local elections, but the country’s election council annulled the Istanbul vote, after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) challenged the results citing severe irregularities

The AKP and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have stepped up efforts to regain the control of Turkey’s financial powerhouse, which has been run by the AKP and its predecessors for 25 years. The ruling party aims particularly to reach out voters who abstained on March 31, as majority of abstainers are AKP supporters according to analysts. 

The CHP’s Istanbul provincial head Canan Kaftancıoğlu, and three senior members of the party that will actively take part in the election campaign detailed their strategy during a press conference on Friday.

“In the field, we will explain the promises of Ekrem İmamoğlu, but this time differently we will also share the unjust treatment against İmamoğlu, adding that this meant an unjust treatment to 16 million Istanbulites,” Kaftancıoğlu said during the press conference.

The far-right National Movement Party (MHP), which is in alliance with the AKP, also shared its election strategy in Istanbul. The party’s deputy chairman Feti Yıldız told reporters on Saturday that the party would not stop working until the AKP’s candidate Binali Yıldırım was elected and received his authorisation. 

The MHP also prioritises abstainers in March 31 election. Some 84 percent of Istanbul’s registered 10.6 million voters cast their ballots in the March vote. According to Yıldız, 300,000 of those abstainers are left-wing voters, while some 1.4 million are people with Islamist-nationalist backgrounds. 

“As a part of our efforts, we reach those voters and ask them why they did not vote. There are problems related to ailments, resentments, and jobs,” Yıldız said. “We are trying to persuade them to vote. We are trying to explain them this election is no more just a mayoral election in Istanbul, that we are not only electing a mayor, that the outcome will have different political results,” he said. 

According to some analysts, by pushing for Istanbul rerun, Erdoğan and the ruling alliance risked a tremendous backlash from the Istanbul electorate, while according to some commentators in Turkey the June 23 vote could turn into a referendum over Erdoğan’s rule. 

According to pollsters, not only abstainers but supporters of small parties will play a decisive role in Istanbul election, as the difference between two leading candidates was as low as 13,729 votes in the first election of the province that has 10.6 million voters.

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