Surmounting obstacles: Potential impact of Imamoğlu’s victory

We are heading towards one of the most unfair and unequal elections in our history on March 31st. Despite its being a local elections, its results will have profound effects on Turkish poltical landscape, especially in Istanbul. Imamoğlu’s victory against both government and opposition obstacles, as well as those from within the CHP, may mean a change in the political climate of Türkiye. (Photo: AA)We are heading towards one of the most unfair and unequal elections in our history on March 31st. Despite its being a local elections, its results will have profound effects on Turkish poltical landscape, especially in Istanbul.President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan seems to have mobilized the entire state machinery to prevent the re-election of Istanbul’s CHP Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu. From the Speaker of the Parliament Numan Kurtulmuş to the Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, from the Minister of Interior Affairs Ali Yerlikaya responsible for election security to the Minister of Justice Yılmaz Tunç responsible for the security of elections, all levels of administration seem to be mobilized in support of the AKP candidate Murat Kurum.Ankara Metropolitan Municipality Mayor Mansur Yavaş criticized Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan’s involvement into the AKP Istanbul campaign.“PKK militants are attacking Turks in Belgium, the Foreign Minister says during a visit to tradesmen,” Yavaş says refering Fidan’s visits to local trandesmen asking for a vote for Murat Kurum.İmamoğlu’s obstacles: Not only governmentNot only the government, but almost all opposition parties want İmamoğlu to lose. Because faced with so many obstacles, if İmamoğlu manages to defeat Erdoğan in 2024 (not Kurum, actually), it will be his second time defeating Erdoğan, especially in Istanbul which the president regards as “his home” and İmamoğlu will be seen not only as the natural leader of the CHP but also of the anti-Erdoğan opposition camp.İmamoğlu’s obstacles are not only from the government and opposition parties, but even the entire CHP does not fully support him. There is a camp within the CHP that still wishes for the previous leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s return and would hope to gain power if İmamoğlu loses.According to MetroPoll’s February Turkey Pulse survey, the percentage who says İmamoğlu would win the race has increased to 48 percent, the ones that stated to vote for him is 39 percent. The survey suggests that İmamoğlu’s votes are 9-point ahead of his rival Kurum. The difference was only 3 points in February.For my part, I approach the finding of a 9-point difference in MetroPoll with caution. I still do not rule out the possibility of Kurum winning with last-minute attacks.Pressure is not limited to IstanbulBecause I see that the full-court government pressure is not only limited to Istanbul.Balıkesir’s CHP Metropolitan Mayor candidate Ahmet Akın says he has never seen so many ministers in the city’s history; almost every day, one or two ministers come to the city and ask for votes for the AKP. The same situation applies to other cities where the presidential race between the CHP and the AKP is valid. Among them are Bursa, Antalya, Hatay, Adana, and Eskişehir.Although there is no competition between the CHP and the AKP, cities like Şanlıurfa and Düzce, where there is competition between the AKP and the Felicity Party, are also flooded with ministerial visits.Even if the CHP loses votes in Izmir, it seems that Cemil Tugay will not give the election to the AKP candidate Hamza Dağ. But AKP ministers and officials have included Izmir in their AKP campaign events, most recently with our first astronaut Alper Gezeravcı in his official uniform.Ministers know that if İmamoğlu wins in Istanbul, as the polls indicate, they will be accused of not providing enough support; hence the visits to tradesmen by technocrats.Although MetroPoll director Özer Sencar thinks Erdogan exaggerates this support, and this excessive pressure may backfire, especially in Istanbul, benefiting İmamoğlu; we will see that on the night of March 31st.İmamoğlu’s victoryHowever, if İmamoğlu wins despite all these obstacles and the unequal election environment, it is possible to summarize what this means for Türkiye’s political climate in a few points:First of all, this would show that DEM and İYİ Party voters voted for İmamoğlu, not for their own candidates. In other words, the alliance voters who could not be achieved at the top are achieved at the grassroots level. The voter masses have not only expressed their dissatisfaction with Erdoğan but also with the narrow group-based understanding in their parties.İmamoğlu’s victory against these obstacles would mean that he is perceived by the masses as the natural opposition leader who can deal with Erdoğan in Turkish politics.This situation will be reflected first in the CHP. A CHP administration that is more focused on political goals directed at power rather than ideological goals, with younger and more female politicians at the forefront, may have the opportunity to open the expected new page for the CHP.The consequences for AKPDiscussions may arise within the AKP about being deprived of the opportunities of Istanbul and Ankara Metropolitan Municipalities and sharing those opportunities with their voter base for another five years.Again, this situation may force Erdogan to make mistakes in the balance of alliances in the Parliament, challenging his desired constitutional amendment and the possibility of being re-elected as President.Although it does not seem likely at the moment, discussions about early elections may enter Türkiye’s political agenda. However, if the opposition is careful not to let that decision be made in Parliament in a way that will make Erdoğan a candidate again, a serious political struggle for damage control may begin.Mansur Yavaş in Ankara seems relieved. I had previously shared my observation that AKP candidate Turgut Altınok seemed to be preparing to throw in the towel. In Ankara, the only risk for Mansur Yavaş is ballot rigging. However, it is also seen that Yavaş will overcome this with volunteer youth and try to prevent wasted votes in this way. There is also the possibility that the CHP will protect Çankaya and Yenimahalle in Ankara and add another district on top.To sum up, if Imamoğlu wins against both government and opposition obstacles, as well as those from within the CHP, the political climate of Türkiye may change. If Kurum wins, it will continue like this.

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