Turkey’s ruling party to sideline Erdoğan for new Istanbul campaign

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) plans to embrace a warmer campaign style for the Istanbul mayoral rerun election, putting its candidate in the fore rather than President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Duvar news site reported.

Opposition candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu won the initial March 31 vote by a small margin over AKP candidate and former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım. But earlier this month an AKP appeal prompted Turkey’s election board to annul that result and schedule a rerun for June 23. 

Some commentators pegged the Erdoğan-dominated campaign that sidelined local candidates and embraced harsh rhetoric, which contrasted with İmamoğlu’s friendly campaign, as a reason the ruling party lost the March 31 vote in major cities like Istanbul and Ankara. 

AKP officials said this time the party will focus on face-to-face contact with voters rather than rallies, and the campaign will centre on Yıldırım, rather than Erdoğan, Duvar said. Social media will be used more intensively, while the rhetoric will be significantly softened, the party added. 

The AKP will also work to avoid scenes that might upset voters, such as bodyguards preventing personal interactions between the candidate and voters and large convoys blocking traffic.

The AKP aims to reach voters that abstained on March 31. The party estimates that some 300,000 AKP supporters chose not to vote in the initial Istanbul election, which had a turnout of nearly 84 percent.

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