Surveys show race for Ankara, Istanbul neck and neck

Surveys show race for Ankara, Istanbul neck and neck

Political parties submitted their lists of mayoral candidates to the Supreme Election Board (YSK) late yesterday. As the lists will be finalized by March 3, the parties will still have time to make changes in the lists. This is particularly important given that the March 31 municipal polls will mark a first in the history of Turkish elections, as the political parties are running in alliances. 

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), dubbed the People’s Alliance, are in a race with the Nation Alliance, made by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the İYİ (Good) Party.

In addition, minor parties are also in efforts to join these two big alliances. The Great Union Party (BBP) will move with the People’s Alliance while the Felicity Party is taking the side of the Nation Alliance.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) will lend indirect support to the Nation Alliance by not presenting candidates in major constituencies, like Istanbul, Adana, İzmir and Adana.

As of yesterday, before the candidates’ list was submitted, the AKP-MHP partnership was planning to run joint candidates in 44 provinces (out of 81), 30 of them being greater municipalities including all major cities in Turkey. The Nation Alliance is believed to present joint candidates in around 50 provinces, 23 of them greater municipalities.

These figures may change in line with ongoing negotiations between the political parties before they submit their final candidates’ lists on March 3.

It’s obvious that every vote will count in these local elections as all eyes will be on Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir. The opposition Nation Alliance is eyeing giving a blow to the government by winning Istanbul and/or Ankara. The CHP-İYİ Party Alliance is pretty sure that it will not lose İzmir to the People’s Alliance, although it will have to defend its stronghold against a prominent figure from the AKP.

Istanbul, representing one-fifth of the country’s total population, has a special weight in Turkish politics. “To win Turkey, a victor in Istanbul is a must” is a frequently voiced motto by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. That’s why he chose the AKP’s second strongest man, Binali Yıldırım, to run for Istanbul.

Yıldırım had to accept the proposal although he was not pleased to quit his position as parliament speaker. His unhappiness could be read well on his face when he handed his office over to an interim speaker on Feb. 19. Immediately after the ceremony, he took the fast-speed train to go to Istanbul to intensify his election campaign. He was accompanied by dozens of cameramen and reporters, with a part of his train journey being broadcast live. He was again met by TV cameras for live coverage on his arrival in Istanbul, obviously pointing out at his advantage in using media outlets over his rival, Ekrem İmamoğlu.

Some public opinion surveys suggest that there was a decline in the votes for Yıldırım in the recent weeks because of his loose election campaign and continued debate over the fact that he was not very much willing to resign from his post. We will, therefore, witness a much more active campaign by Yıldırım until the elections to secure a good win.

Two contenders for Ankara, Mansur Yavaş of the Nation Alliance and Mehmet Özhaseki of the People’s Alliance, seem to be in a neck-and-neck race as indicated by independent surveys. Erdoğan instructed all senior AKP ministers and Ankara lawmakers to give solid support to the party’s efforts in Ankara, particularly to influence MHP voters to vote for Özhaseki. It’s no coincidence that Erdoğan himself is keen on visiting each and every district of Ankara as part of the campaign process.

With six weeks to go to the polls and candidates now totally registered, two major alliances are expected to gear up and win as many constituencies as they can in the upcoming elections.