Will Türkiye's ruling AK Party reclaim Istanbul?

Türkiye's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party's newest and grandest ambition is to retake Istanbul. This determination was emphasized by the Provincial Chairman, Osman Nuri Kabaktepe, in a recent gathering with reporters and columnists. Following the Eid al-Adha holiday, the AK Party will commence its "Reclaim Istanbul" campaign in preparation for the 2024 elections.

But how does the AK Party plan to reclaim Istanbul from the CHP?

While President Erdogan won the presidential election and the ruling coalition secured a majority in the parliament, Kemal Kilicdaroglu managed to lead in both rounds of voting in Ankara and Istanbul. The initial gap of 190,000 votes widened to 352,000 in the second round, with a difference of three and a half percentage points.

Kabaktepe stated that they meticulously analyzed the election results in Istanbul on May 14th and 28th. He compared them to the elections in March 2019. Kabaktepe emphasized that the dynamics of the repeated elections in June, which resulted in Ekrem Imamoglu's victory by a margin of 800,000 votes, were different.

Kabaktepe shared the following data: "While considering the results of the June elections, we base our evaluations on the March elections. We have set a threshold of not falling below 48% and aim to push it to 50-51%. We have experienced a decline of 1.4 percentage points compared to 2018. We are currently conducting research to determine the reasons behind this decline."

For the AK Party to win in Istanbul, they need to secure an additional 150,000 votes based on the results of the May 28th elections. However, it is not only Erdogan's lead that raises concerns; the decline in AK Party's votes in Istanbul on May 14th is also noteworthy. Preliminary observations suggest that economic factors played a significant role. The Provincial Chairman will share a report on this matter with journalists later.

Nevertheless, there is no need to await the report to acknowledge that the uncontrolled increase in housing rents in Istanbul remains unresolved. Living in Istanbul is becoming more challenging and costly. The fundamental need for shelter has become a significant problem. If the AK Party desires to win local elections in Istanbul, it must provide solutions to the basic economic issues faced by the city's residents.

Ekrem Imamoglu has been governing the city for four years, and Istanbul's problems have accumulated substantially. There is considerable chaos in public transportation, and moving from one place to another has become a torment. Even managing Istanbul's public bus company, IETT, appears to be beyond Imamoglu's capabilities. He has not fulfilled even 20% of his promises. He pledged to build 20,000 housing units per year, but so far, not a single unit has been constructed. The reality is evident: we are facing a failed administration by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.

Despite these circumstances, the fact that Istanbul voters chose Kemal Kilicdaroglu in both elections raises the question, "Is Istanbul becoming more like Izmir?" AK Party failed to recapture the lost districts of Maltepe and Sariyer in previous elections. Additionally, they were unable to regain control of the Küçükçekmece and Beylikdüzü districts alongside the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. There is a clear change in Istanbul's voter profile or priorities.

When asked about the possibility of "Izmirization" in Istanbul, Provincial Chairman Osman Nuri Kabaktepe responded, "I do not think such a rupture or transformation will occur." He then listed the political preference dynamics of Istanbul's population as follows:

1. The AK Party voter base is solid, hovering around 40 percent.

2. There are also voters who have at least once supported the AK Party and the MHP (Nationalist Movement Party). This percentage reaches 68 percent in Istanbul.

3. There is a group of voters, approximately 35 percent, who have never voted for the AK Party.

The AK Party is trying to develop separate strategies for these three groups. Retaining the current voter base is crucial. Erdogan won the elections with the support of this voter group. From what I understand, the AK Party will focus on voters who have had contact with the AK Party and the MHP in any election over the past 20 years. The higher the persuasion rate in this group, the more likely it is to regain control of both the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB) and certain districts.

A statistic shared by Kabaktepe is quite interesting: "If every party puts forward candidates, the AK Party will win Istanbul until 2053. No one can take the municipality from us. We are 8 percentage points ahead of the closest party."

The projection presented actually shows that the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB) is won by alliances rather than just the CHP (Republican People's Party). İmamoğlu won with the votes of the İYİ Party (Good Party) and HDP (Peoples' Democratic Party) voters.

A new era has now begun in politics, and the current alliances have come to an end. If the İYİ Party or HDP nominate candidates in Istanbul, the balance will be disrupted. AK Party would then become very competitive.

Of course, whether İmamoğlu runs again or creates a new political path for himself will also be decisive. It is now evident that İmamoğlu wants to free himself from Istanbul and intends to take over the leadership of the CHP.

Kabaktepe stated, "We are not concerned with the identity and quality of our opponent. We trust in our own strength, no matter who comes forward."

So, who will be the AK Party's candidate? The names of Murat Kurum, elected as a Member of Parliament from the first district, and Tevfik Göksu, the Mayor of Esenler, have been mentioned. Kabaktepe evaded persistent questions about specific names and said, "The process of selecting a candidate has not started yet. We will follow the framework set by the central headquarters. We have about thirty names being mentioned."

Will Kabaktepe himself become a candidate? He answered this question by saying, "I have no intention to run."

In addition to all these analyses and comments, we must consider the factor of Ekrem İmamoğlu, who poses a threat to a CHP struggling with internal issues and facing the "Reclaim Istanbul" campaign by the AK Party. As seen on May 14 and 28, voters did not approve of fragmentation, uncertainty, and multiple leaderships. Currently, both the CHP and Istanbul face a similar level of uncertainty.

#Mayoral elections
#AK Party
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