Opposition mayoral candidate for Istanbul visits President Erdoğan

Elections may have reached the digital age in Turkey, but canvassing for votes is still an effective method in any candidate’s campaign.

Far less conventional is canvassing rival politicians – let alone the chairman of the ruling party and president of the country.

Yet that is what Ekrem İmamoğlu, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP)’s mayoral candidate for Istanbul, did on Thursday, when he decided to visit Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the Turkish capital city of Ankara.

İmamoğlu said “no specific project” had been discussed during the visit, but said he and the president had reached a consensus on the subject of Istanbul’s skyline.

Earlier this week Erdoğan lamented the rampant construction that he said had “turned the coasts and forests into concrete.” Many in Turkey noted the irony of the statement coming from a leader who has presided over a period of nearly unchecked construction and development, including flagship government projects that have decimated Turkish forests.

İmamoğlu’s friendly visit was warm enough for the CHP’s candidate to win a smile from the president and rival party leader when he asked him for his vote in the upcoming March 31 local elections.

It was İmamoğlu’s direct rival in the elections, the AKP candidate for Istanbul Binali Yıldırım, who had the most to smile about from the meeting.

Yıldırım, whose continuing role as the speaker of the Turkish parliament by some legal experts’ reckoning disqualifies him from running in Istanbul. Yıldırım has refused to resign his position as speaker, however, and says that participating in an election is "not a political activity" and thus does not break the constitutional law cited by opponents.

İmamoğlu expressed his admiration for Yıldırım, said he was unconcerned by the controversy and happy to run against the speaker as the lesser known candidate, since this would make it easier for him to reach voters directly.

İmamoğlu went on to praise Erdoğan, who served as the mayor of Istanbul in the 1990s, for his success at communicating with voters.