The most anticipated program in the run-up to the Istanbul mayoral elections, in the form of a live television debate between the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) candidate Binali Yıldırım and the Republican People's Party (CHP) candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu, will take place on June 16.
It is highly likely that the week-long campaign, following the debate, will focus on and see numerous assessments of the program. Istanbul's voters will compare the visions, promises, projects and personalities of the two candidates. The debate will significantly determine voters' perception ahead of the polls. The long-awaited practice of "showdown in a joint program" is the reflection of the new system and the phenomenon of alliances. It is highly probable that politicians will more deeply feel the pressure for such joint programs from now on.
The last 12 days of the campaign will go on with debates over the personalities and promises made by the candidates. While Yıldırım forges ahead in the assessment of the "personalities" of candidates, the CHP candidate is on the defensive. İmamoğlu was hit by his own claim in the March 31 campaign. The fact that he does not have a voter-embracing, radical and affectionate character was revealed by his insult on the Ordu Governor.
The CHP candidate cannot tell the public how he revealed the anger he was hiding. It is no use crying over spilled milk… The carefully built perception of the "mayoral candidate to embrace Istanbul" was seriously hurt. The CHP candidate offered a very handy material to those who criticize him for "non-authenticity." He showed that he could not carry his ambitious rhetoric during the crisis. He also showed he could not manage his surroundings at all. The polemic of "villainy-simplicity" will haunt İmamoğlu until the election. Furthermore, debates about the "authenticity" of the CHP candidate and "whether he is a project or not" are likely to continue until the polls.
On the other hand, Yıldırım's performance of "being oneself" continues to rise. As a veteran politician, he voices well-studied promises for all segments of Istanbul. There is no criticism of Yıldırım in the field. His humility and being a man of action are accepted by all segments. While the CHP's not the well-known candidate with a "well-built" perception is losing ground, Yıldırım is creating his own difference with his years of experience. In the joint TV program, not perceptions but real personalities will speak.
The Kurdish electorate, the Black Sea region's electorate and conservative electorates will determine the result of the renewed Istanbul elections. The segment from the Felicity Party (SP) base resentful to AK Party and devout Kurds are also important. Both candidates attach special importance to these three segments and try to convince voters with a multilayered discourse. İmamoğlu overshadowed his Black Sea tour with his "insult against the Governor." His failure to hide his anger actually showed the conservative electorate that he is a typical CHP politician. He relies on the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) field work to attract Kurdish voters.
Yıldırım makes serious endeavors with his Diyarbakır, Şanlıurfa and Sivas tours as well as symbolic statements toward the Kurdish electorate. He reminds them of that the AK Party is opposed to the separation of Kurds and carried out numerous reforms to overcome this. He draws attention to the CHP's status quoist past regarding Kurds' demands.
Having spent the month of Ramadan in contact with religious groups, Yıldırım is more advantageous in ruling Istanbul together with resentful conservatives. The idea that Istanbul should not be ruled by a CHP candidate prevails among conservative voters. Of course, the last word will be said at the polls.
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