Ruling AKP leads in Istanbul, Ankara, lags in İzmir

Ruling AKP leads in Istanbul, Ankara, lags in İzmir

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Ruling AKP leads in Istanbul, Ankara, lags in İzmir

This file photo shows a ballot official inking after a citizen votes. The ruling AKP appears the strong in Turkey’s two major cities for the local elections.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is not expecting a major challenge from opposition parties in Istanbul and Ankara in the March 2014 local elections, but it still lags behind in İzmir, according to the latest polls.

According to the polls, the AKP’s vote in Istanbul and Ankara stands at over 50 percent, while it lags eight points behind the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in İzmir, Turkey’s third largest city. The polls were discussed during a meeting of the AKP’s Central Executive Board late Sept. 3.

Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek, whose electorate support in earlier polls had been around 7 percent below that of the AKP, has enjoyed increasing support recently and is expected to be nominated to the post for a fifth consecutive term. AKP officials believe that voters have reacted positively to Gökçek’s tough and often condescending stance against Gezi protesters in the city. The welcome ceremony Gökçek organized in Ankara for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on his return from Algeria in the midst of the Gezi protests has also helped him secure the AKP’s nomination, it is widely believed.

The biggest concern for the AKP going into the local elections is İzmir, where the party is eight points behind the CHP and current mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu. In other mayors’ posts held by the main opposition, the two parties are neck to neck in Eskişehir and the AKP enjoys a slight lead in Antalya, according to poll results presented to officials.

In the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) has a support of almost 60 percent of voters, but the AKP has been increasing its votes in the province thanks to the ongoing Kurdish peace process, according to pollsters. In strongholds such as Konya and Kayseri, two-thirds of the electorate are expected to vote for the ruling party.

However, the poll results are not necessarily reflected in the mood in Istanbul. For example, both current mayor Kadir Topbaş and the AKP enjoy a support of over 50 percent, but sources in the ruling party suggest that Topbaş could be kept aside in order to be nominated for Parliament in the 2015 general election. 

The leading names being considered for the post are EU Minister Egemen Bağış and Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım. Some AKP officials believe that if Yıldırım, who represents İzmir in Parliament, is nominated for the İzmir mayoral post, he would help the AKP raise its votes. However, it would still be very difficult to beat the CHP there, so he may be put forward in Istanbul instead.

Yıldırım, along with former Parliament Speaker Mehmet Ali Şahin, is also mooted as one of the names who could replace Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as AKP leader, if Erdoğan is elected as president in the poll scheduled for August 2014.

AKP İzmir deputy Rıfat Sait and the party’s provincial head, Ömer Cihat Akay, are also interested in running for the post in İzmir, but Prime Minister Erdoğan could yet nominate a surprise name in the Aegean province, sources within the party said.