As local elections approach, rallies in support of political leaders are becoming livelier while the size and makeup of crowds are giving us useful hints about the nature of the elections as well as the results.
The AK Party's big Istanbul rally was held on Sunday. This is the last Sunday before the elections and I was one of the journalists who were on hand to observe and comment on the event live on television. A number of critical observations can be made about the rally.
The rally took place at Yenikapı Square, which was recently built for such occasions. It is the largest square in the country, taking up a space of about 673,000 square meters. As I arrived at the square two hours before the event was set to begin I saw huge crowds of people flowing to the square, the size of which was actually beyond my expectations. As the time approached the crowd grew so large that there was not a single inch left empty in the entire space of 673,000 square meters. The estimated number of people in attendance was around 2 million, many who came with homemade flags or stickers to offer support to their leader.
I saw many women, usually in groups and mostly from the poorer parts of the city, who were wearing hats with the slogan "Hepimiz Tayyip'iz" (We all are Tayyip Erdoğan) on it.
There were also many families with children, even with babies. People were pushing each other to fit in to the square just to give the message "we are one and we are strong." As a journalist who has witnessed many rallies over the 13 years of my professional life, I should say that I was really touched by the sincerity and anxiety of the crowd.
When we had the chance to speak with many of them, it became clear that after the Dec. 17 period, the support of voters for the political leadership was strengthened. They identify themselves with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and regard the cooperation of - what the prime minister calls - the "parallel state" with some global powers as an attempt to force Erdoğan to step down, which they also see as an attack against themselves.
My opinion is that, in order to understand a Turkey run by the AK Party for 12 years, everyone should consider and understand the crowd in Yenikapı. Unfortunately some of the Turkish media is blind to this fact. They can't or don't observe the millions who identify themselves with Erdoğan. These millions see him as one of them, as their representative in a way, so his power is seen as their power.
They don't want to give this away at any cost.
So whatever comes up against Erdoğan, ironically helps to strengthen his image and enhances the attachment. This is the main reason why the AK Party will emerge as the foremost powerful party from the ballot box this coming Sunday.