Apr 19 2019

What were the dynamics behind the results of Istanbul vote? - analysis

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) seems to have faced defeat in mayoral race on March 31 due to falling voter turnout, which is likely the result of AKP voters avoiding to cast their ballots, columnist Sedat Ergin said in Hürriyet on Friday.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu on Wednesday was officially declared the winner of the mayoral race in Istanbul, which according to the analysts is a huge blow to the AKP and the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 

While the AKP awaits the results of its appeal to the Supreme Election Council to annul the Istanbul vote, many in Turkey are wondering how the secularist opposition regained the control of Turkey’s main business and cultural hub after 25 years. 

According to the preliminary data on March 31 polls, the votes of the alliance between the AKP and far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) fell 484,000 compared to parliamentary and presidential elections last year in June, while the number of voters remained more or less the same, Ergin said.

According to Ergin, the numbers show that the alliance failed to some extent to persuade its supporters to come to the polling stations. “Given the large voter base of the ruling party, we may assume that this situation was related more to the AKP voters,” Ergin said.  

On March 31, Istanbulites chose not only their new mayor, but also members of the metropolitan council, district mayors, and members of the district local councils. In the metropolitan council the AKP still has a majority, receiving 46 percent of the vote, and the ruling party will control 24 of the 39 district municipalities in the city. 

In local council polls, the AKP received some 3.8 million votes, while the MHP’s votes were at 184,051, Ergin said. Given that the MHP supported the AKP in 36 districts and ran with its own candidates in three, the total votes of the alliance in local council elections is 83,000 less than the votes received by the parties’ Istanbul mayoral candidate Binali Yıldırım. According to Ergin, those additional votes likely came from the voters of far-right Islamist/nationalist Great Unity Party (BBP) and some other small parties. 

Lat year, on June 24 elections 9,304,000 voters in Istanbul out of 10,573,000 cast their votes. On March 31, the electoral records show a 3,000 decrease in the total number of voters, while some 8,865,000 cast their votes, indicating a fall of 439,000 compared to June 24 polls.

“We should acknowledge that the AKP voters that did not cast votes was an important factor in Binali Yıldırım's defeat,” Ergin said.

Ergin said that the number of invalid votes on March 31 had been 315,000, while on June 24 polls it had been around 149,000. “It is likely that the voters who showed their reactions by casting invalid votes played a role in this increase,” the columnist said.

İmamoğlu, who was the joint candidate of the CHP and the nationalist Good Party, received more than 4.1 million votes on March 31, meaning he managed to take the support of almost one million voters from other parties, when the results are compared to the June 24 polls, Ergin said. 

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) asked its supporters to vote for the opposition’s candidate on March 31. Many analysts say that the HDP votes played a pivotal role in İmamoğlu’s victory, but according to Ergin comparing Istanbul’s new mayor’s votes to the local council polls can give a clearer picture, as the HDP ran with separate lists at districts.

In local council polls the CHP and the Good Party together received some 3,582,000 votes, while the HDP votes were at around 342,000. This means that İmamoğlu, in the mayoral race, received 246,000 more votes, compared to the three parties’s performances in local council polls. 

“From that we should understand there were significant swing votes cast for İmamoğlu from other political parties, apart from these three,” Ergin said.