Psychological edge is key to winning elections. Campaign strategists frequently attempt to promote morale among their supporters or dishearten their opponents. The same goes for the June 23 mayoral election in Istanbul.
Although the race is geographically limited to Istanbul, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government's opponents are unified. The electoral authority's decision to annul the original vote has been exploited for a coordinated campaign at home and abroad. Critics raise questions about the legitimacy of the ballot box, claiming that the Turkish people no longer trust the electoral process.
That the elections watchdog found widespread irregularities is often ignored. Instead, there is an attempt to turn a technical decision into a debate on "the Erdoğan regime's collapse" and "revolution." The opposition acts like Ekrem İmamoğlu, the opposition candidate, has been stripped of his mandate and the municipality was handed to Binali Yıldırım. The Republican People's Party (CHP), best known as the vanguard of the guardianship regime, went beyond criticism and painted a target on the backs of judges who ruled for annulment. Needless to say, everything they do is part of an effort to boost İmamoğlu's morale.
The international media and former AK Party politicians, too, play an important role in this battle for morale. Western media reports are full of anti-Erdoğan sentiment. The New York Times claims that the Turkish president will keep holding elections until he gets his way. The Guardian already discredited the rerun. According to the Economist, Erdoğan will pull some tricks to block another victory for the CHP candidate. Their point is that anyone who believes in democracy must vote for İmamoğlu.
It is no secret that Western governments have been eagerly waiting for the AK Party's removal from power. Therefore, the Western media's anti-Erdogan sentiment does not shock anyone. After all, the same outlets acted exactly the same way before the 2017 constitutional referendum and last year's presidential election. They have been parroting the same line about the collapse of Turkish democracy for years. Now, they have turned their attention to the Istanbul race. Ignoring the transfer of power in Ankara and Antalya, they target the credibility of electoral institutions in an attempt to help the CHP candidate.
There is another group that participates in the battle for morale. Former AK Party politicians talk about the annulment with reference to the alleged loss of electoral legitimacy. They compare the latest decision with the Kemalist guardianship regime's gross violations of democratic principles to boost the CHP candidate's morale. They also go beyond criticism of the AK Party and speak the language of their adversaries.
It is crucial for all AK Party supporters to take into consideration this battle for morale before casting their votes.