ISTANBUL – Residents are holding their breath ahead of upcoming local elections on March 30 in the western Turkish city of İzmir, where the AK Party vowed to gain the upper hand and nominated former Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım for mayor. This strategic move by the AK Party in İzmir, where the city suffers from a lack of modern infrastructure and transportation problems, has aroused curiosity. Will İzmir residents vote for the development pledge of the AK Party or continue their Republican People's Party (CHP)-oriented voting trends?
The upcomingelections are believed to be one of the hardest tests for the ruling AK Party. A recent poll by the Objective Research Centre's (ORC) in İzmir offered some insight into voting expectations in one of the biggest cities in Turkey.
According to findings, the upcoming elections will see the tightest race between the AK Party and CHP to date. In the mayoral race in İzmir, the polls indicate that the incumbent Aziz Kocaoğlu, who has nominated by the CHP again, is expected to receive 42.3 percent while AK Party's İzmir mayor candidate Binali Yıldırım is expected to receive 38.1 percent.
In Konak, one of the largest districts of İzmir in terms of population, a survey of 2,200 people indicated that current Konak Mayor Hakan Tartan's transfer to the Democratic Left Party (DSP), after he was not nominated by the CHP to run for re-election, should see voters split their ballots among the AK Party, DSP and CHP. Followed by AK Party's candidate İlknur Denizli with 27.6 percent, the DSP's candidate, Hakan Tartan, is expected to receive 30.5 percent. The CHP's candidate, Sema Pektaş, is expected to tail the AK Party with 26 percent.
According to the 1,630 people surveyed in the Bornova district of İzmir, CHP candidate Olgun Atilla's support will likely decrease from 49.7 percent in 2009 to 39.7 percent. The AK Party candidate İlhan Kaya is expected to follow him closely with 36 percent. MHP candidate Erol Bahtiyar is lagging far behind in the mayoral race with 14.1 percent in Bornova.
Accepted as the backyard of İzmir, Çiğli will choose between the AK Party and the CHP in upcoming elections. According to 1,520 people surveyed in Çiğli, CHP candidate Hasan Arslan is expected to receive 38.5 percent of the vote, whereas AK Party's candidate Adnan Yılmaz is expected to increase his share to 37.1 percent. The MHP candidate M. Yalçın Birazeroğlu appears to be out of the race with 10.9 percent.
The Bayraklı district in İzmir stands as one of the biggest examples of the internal rivalry within the CHP. Hüseyin Arslan, who announced his nomination for İzmir municipality mayor in November 2013, transferred to the DSP and became the party's mayoral candidate after CHP decided to continue with current İzmir mayor, Aziz Kocaoğlu. Compared to local elections in 2009, the DSP's votes in Bayraklı are expected to increase from 2.1 percent to 19 percent with the candidacy of Hüseyin Arslan.
The CHP's Bayraklı candidate Hasan Karabağ is expected to receive about 32 percent. The AK Party's candidate İsmail Sarı, who is expected to benefit from the internal rivalry and divisions among the left-wing, is expected to receive 29.3 percent.
Of the 2,000 people surveyed in Buca, general voting trends seem to have been broken to a certain extent. While the CHP candidate Levent Priştina is expected to receive 38.4 percent and see a decline in CHP's share of the votes which was at 50.6 percent in the 2009 local elections. Priştina is expected to be followed by AK Party's candidate Cemil Şeboy with 36.9 percent. MHP's candidate Levent Çizmeli is expected to receive 12 percent of the votes.
Karşıyaka, the second-largest district of İzmir after Konak, will experience a fall in the CHP's votes, according to the ORC's polls.
The CHP candidate H. Mutlu Akpınar is expected to receive 47.3 of the votes while AK Party's candidate Tanfer Kemerli is expected to receive 25.1 percent.
MHP's candidate Lütfü Kılıç is expected to fall behind with 12 percent. The tightest race between the AK Party and CHP in İzmir will possibly be seen in the district of Karabağlar.
According to ORC's polls, CHP's candidate Muhittin Selvitopu is expected to receive 40.9 percent of the votes while AK Party's candidate Necip Kalkan is projected to receive 40.1 percent. Compared to the 2009 elections, it can be anticipated that while the CHP's votes have declined in the district, the AK Party has gained the upper hand. MHP's candidate Cihan Demir seems to be out of race again in that district with 8.5 percent. To take the pulse of İzmir residents, Daily Sabah spoke with some local citizens. Ayhan Korkmazel, who was born and raised in İzmir, said, "I do not know which party I will support in this election. I do not like the CHP's current İzmir Mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu. The CHP's projects in the city are not aimed to develop İzmir. They have not even completed İzmir's metro line for 15 years. There has been no development in the city."
Selma Öncü, a working woman living in İzmir, said, "I will vote for the CHP. I always believe that CHP is the best political party. There can be some problems in terms of the CHP's municipalism [sic], but I still support the CHP."
Meryem Pınarkaya, a hijabi living in İzmir, said, "I have had numerous bad experiences in İzmir for wearing the hijab. But the freedom I have been enjoying the last 12 years has been remarkable, making the previous oppressions a thing of the past. I voted for AK Party before and I will vote for the AK Party again."
Hakan Turan, another resident of İzmir, said, "I will definitely vote for AK Party because of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's [AK Party's leader] firm stance."
A working woman, Berna Cankurtaran, said, "I will vote for the CHP because there is no other option. Even though I'm not pleased with Aziz Kocaoğlu's projects, the only party that supports my ideology is the CHP."
Suat Başaran, a lawyer residing in İzmir, said, "As İzmir residents say, İzmir looks more like a "metrovillage" than a "metropolis." The shanty houses, inadequate transportation alternatives, neglected roads are all examples of how much the CHP Municipality 'contributed' to the city. İzmir remains underdeveloped in comparison with Ankara and Istanbul. Putting aside differences in ideologies, I will vote for the AK Party candidate Binali Yıldırım."