Istanbul mayoral contenders spar at a landmark TV debate
The two main contenders for Istanbul rerun mayoral race, Binali Yıldırım of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Ekrem İmamoğlu of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), sat down for a live TV debate on June 16, a week ahead of the June 23 election.
The debate between Yıldırım, the People’s Alliance candidate, and İmamoğlu, the Nation’s Alliance candidate, took place at Istanbul’s Lütfi Kırdar Congress Center under the moderation of journalist and TV presenter İsmail Küçükkaya.
Regarding why Istanbul polls need to be renewed, Yıldırım said “peculiar things” happened during the counting and the Supreme Election Board (YSK) ruled for a re-run in light of the events.
“We did not want this election to be renewed. We endeavored for this yet the CHP was no help to us,” Yıldırım said.
“If only all the votes can be recounted, then no one would have these doubts. Then we would not be troubling the Istanbul residents for the June 23 [elections],” he added.
The AKP candidate once again stressed his remarks accusing the CHP of “stealing the votes” and said his votes were “tallied for İmamoğlu.”
On the same issue, İmamoğlu recalled the events of March 31, the local elections, and stressed that Yıldırım announced his victory without the conclusive results.
“[Yıldırım] announced his victory at 11.25 p.m. and what a coincidence that the Anadolu Agency halted its data broadcasting exactly at this time,” İmamoğlu said.
İmamoğlu also rejected Yıldırım’s theft allegations, adding that it is “not right” to say the CHP did not want a recount.
He also stressed that the YSK’s detailed ruling does not include accusations of “vote thievery.”
“Istanbul mayoral elections are immaculate and legitimately ours. To whom [Yıldırım] is saying ‘they stole’? Are these remarks for AKP polling officials, or balloting committee members from the İYİ [Good] Party, or the MHP [Nationalist Movement Party] or the CHP?” he asked.
On the differences in the electioneering campaigns of candidates with the last election, Yıldırım said his discourse remains on the same line and is solely focused on Istanbul.
When asked the reasons why President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is not as visible when compared to the last elections, Yıldırım replied: “We are going to elections with alliances.”
Yıldırım said he would win by a landslide victory if the votes were recounted.
İmamoğlu refuted the AKP candidate’s claims, adding that he regards this re-run election as a “struggle for democracy.”
“I am the elected mayor [of Istanbul]. We are campaigning against those being unfair,” he said.
The CHP candidate also called on voters of the AKP and said: “I am seeking your votes.”
‘Wasteful spending will be ceased’
While both candidates promised to increase the green space in Istanbul, İmamoğlu stressed that the “wasteful spending” in Istanbul is the biggest problem of the city.
“The biggest problems are poverty, bad management and squandering. The Court of Accounts’ report says there are irregularities in Istanbul Electric Tram and Tunnel Company (İETT), Istanbul’s water authority İSKİ is over 753 million Turkish liras [nearly $127.5 million],” İmamoğlu said.
Yıldırım, however, stated that the report has been disproven.
“There is no such figure in the report. It has been disproven by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality,” he added.
Furthermore, İmamoğlu said he would give discounts on transportation and water fees along with providing Istanbul residents with budget-friendly and healthy sustenance.
Yıldırım, on the other hand, said he would grant transportation aid to residents, who receive unemployment salary.