Ümit Yaldız, the most-read columnist on the oppositional website, The Last Words of the Aegean, wrote the following about the AK Party rally held last Sunday: "No matter what anyone says, Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan squared off both fronts at once. While this might seem ironic to most of you, İzmir is not only the stronghold of the [Republican People's Party] CHP but of the Gülen Movement as well, and the photographs from the AK Party rally clearly shows its success." He was right.
This is exactly why the CHP is now preparing with utmost eagerness for their upcoming rally in İzmir on March 22. The message of the rally is hidden in the slogan, "The voice of İzmir will be heard throughout Turkey!" The slogan is of such a nature that preserves the political distress of both İzmir and the CHP.
As if İzmir is a separate place from Turkey. As if an external, visionary İzmir is addressing its associates within the country.
This perception is the natural outcome of long-term social engineering. İzmir used to be the stronghold of the center-right. We are talking about a city that elected Burhan Özfatura, who stood out on account of his conservative persona, as mayor from 1984-1989 and again from 1994-1999. But things changed with the election of the AK Party.
The "deep state," which tried to keep open the possibility of a coup supported by Old Turkey's strategic centers, focused particularly on İzmir. In addition to this, some of the AK Party administration's misconducts towards the city were used to strengthen opposition arguments based on "lifestyle politics." This was then followed by inculcating the "we are superior" notion in the collective subconscious of the local population.
The situation now has reached such a point that a certain segment of İzmir chooses to ignore the Turkey within its own borders. They keep those with different religious and political beliefs in check through neighborhood pressure, and treat immigrating Kurds with, at times, racist discrimination.
From the CHP's perspective, the situation is truly dramatic. The party has been reduced to being incapable of holding decent rallies in the east and southeast, and its voting potential is limited to coastal cities in the west. Can you imagine a party shutting its ears to the voices of Turkey and pinning its faith to İzmir? I truly empathize with İzmir. Is it fair to rely so much on one city? The leadership of the CHP is not even aware of the fact that this should not be a cause for excitement, but for worry.
İzmir is my second home, so I know it well.
It has a special place in my heart despite our recent disengagements. I am not going to lie; I love its idle soul and its obsession with enjoying life. However, İzmir is tired of delaying economic and cultural investments. Unemployment among university graduates is sky high, the infrastructure is miserable, transportation is horrible and tourism is stagnant.
İzmir needs someone quick and efficient.
The AK Party put up its best performing minister, Binali Yıldırım, for candidacy there. I remember the results of the 2011 elections. The CHP received 1,099,478 votes, whereas the AK Party received 924,976. This is a difference that can easily be matched. It does not matter how much you reduce politics to numbers, what truly matters are political wishes, worries, dreams and prejudices.