Mar 26 2018

Turkey’s ruling party leads in Istanbul mayoral elections - opinion poll

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) looks set to win the key post of mayor of Istanbul in elections next year, an opinion poll showed, but the main opposition could have a chance if it puts up a high profile candidate.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan victory in the race to became mayor of Istanbul in 1994 helped project him on the path to national success, first as prime minister from 2003 to 2014, and then as head of state. 

Turkey faces triple elections next year with polls for mayors and local councils due next March, followed by parliamentary and presidential elections in November 2019.

The Konsensus Research and Consultancy said support for the AKP in the Istanbul mayoral election stood at 46.9 percent, versus 39.3 percent who said they would back the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP).

Turkey’s three biggest cities - Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir - all voted against the government in last year’s constitutional referendum and a similar vote could threaten the AKP’s grip on government nationally. The AKP has been in power since 2002.

“Erdoğan is focused on elections in Istanbul,” wrote columnist Abdülkadir Selvi in the Hürriyet newspaper, noting that the president last week ruled out any changes to the election schedule.

“The elections in Istanbul have vital importance,” he Selvi said, quoting Erdoğan’s own words: “Whoever wins in Istanbul, wins in Turkey”. 

Selvi said the results of the 2017 referendum indicated the emergence of a different identity in Istanbul reminiscent of the strongly secular city of Izmir. “It is essential to read and understand the results in Istanbul properly. Erdoğan has seen it,” he said.

Mahmud Erol Kılıç, writing for pro-government daily Yeni Şafak, noted that according to the Konsensus survey 89 percent of the Istanbul electorate said they would vote for the mayoral candidate from the party they support and only 11 percent said they might change their mind according to the candidate. “Though 11 percent appears to be marginal, it may affect the results,” he said. “Therefore, both AKP and CHP obviously need to go to the election with strong candidates.”