Istanbul mayor İmamoğlu could edge Erdoğan in possible presidential race – pollster

Istanbul’s opposition mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu could defeat Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by a fairly comfortable margin if a presidential race were held between them, a recent study by the Eurasia Public Opinion Research Centre (AKAM) found.

Just over 40 percent of participants in the survey said they would vote for Erdoğan, while 45.5 percent preferred İmamoğlu, elected mayor from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) last year, if the pair ran in a presidential election.

A total of 46.9 percent of those surveyed said they would not vote for Erdoğan if he ran for a second term, while 39.2 percent said they would, AKAM’s Kemal Özkiraz announced in a video.

The negative responses “confirm that some members of the MHP won’t vote for Erdoğan in a coming election, just as they did not in the previous one,” Özkiraz said.

The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) started to shift from a critical approach to Erdoğan’s government after a failed coup attempt in July 2016, and went into a full alliance with the Justice and Development Party (AKP) by 2018, joining forces as a silent partner for the presidential and parliamentary elections.

The shift was not well received by a part of the MHP voter base, and eventually led to the founding of the breakaway centre-right Good Party.

The survey found that 14.9 percent of participants would decide their vote depending on Erdoğan’s rival. A follow up question for these participants showed that 43.2 had voted for Erdoğan in 2018, while 29.7 chose CHP’s candidate Muharrem İnce.

All data considered, Erdoğan could win 46 percent of the vote in the best-case scenario for him, Özkiraz concluded.

The reduced support for the president could be related to discontent with the presidential system, instated with 51.41 percent of the vote in its favour in the 2017 constitutional referendum, Özkiraz found.

In the study, 66.7 percent of participants said they were not at all happy with the presidential system, against 24.1 percent who said they were very happy. Sixty three point one percent said they would vote against the constitutional amendment in case of a second referendum.

Sixty point one percent of participants said Turkey had changed for the worse since the 2017 referendum.

However, those who don’t support Erdoğan did not constitute a united bloc. When asked whether the opposition should band together behind one candidate to challenge the president, 52.7 percent said yes while 32.1 favoured every opposition party running with its own candidate.

A joint opposition candidate would fare better against Erdoğan, the study found, with 42.3 percent of participants saying they would choose the joint candidate. Those who said they would vote for the joint candidate no matter who it was were 25.5 percent of the participants.

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu emerged as a strong name in the study, with 40 percent of participants citing the minister as a favourite politician when asked to choose two names. Those who cited Erdoğan as one of the two were 40.1 percent of the participants.

Former AKP heavyweights Ali Babacan and Ahmet Davutoğlu’s newly founded DEVA and Future Party appear to be attracting most of their votes from the AKP base, Özkiraz told Ahval Turkish in a separate interview. He also said he expected three alliance blocs for the next presidential elections, with Good Party, DEVA, Future Party and smaller conservative-rightwing parties forming the first, and CHP and pro-Kurdish left-wing opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) forming the second alliance against a weakened AKP-MHP bloc.

“Polls that showed Erdoğan increasing his votes during the coronavirus pandemic were all made up,” Özkiraz said. “People thought Turkey handled the process better than other countries, but that did not affect their voting preference, because they could not find what they were looking for in the economic sense.”