Turkey: In Istanbul, the interest in municipal elections – Erdogan’s Prayer to Saint Sophia

A few hours before the polls of the municipal elections open in , interest turns to the battle of Constantinople, where the current mayor Erem Imamoglu and the president’s chosen Murat Kurum compete. It is common appreciation that this is a duel in Turkey, between Tayyip Erdogan and Imamoglu. The latest polls showed that the split in favour of Imamoglu was slightly opened against Erdogan Murat Kurum’s chosen, yet the battle remains bilateral. Erdogan has personally borne the burden of the campaign. Only in the last 48 hours until today (30/3/24) at 6:00 p.m., when the ban on election activities began, he organized six election rallies, all in Istanbul. The same is true of his ministers who “rugged” Constantinople last week, but which led to Murat Kurum’s obscurity, who is not particularly charismatic anyway. In one last move to impress the Islamist electorate base, a few hours before the polls opened, Erdoğan, accompanied by Kurum, prayed Saturday night in Agia Sophia. The result of Sunday’s municipal elections can further strengthen President Erdogan’s control of the political system. But if he fails to get the municipality of Istanbul back, it changes the political scene in Turkey and opens the way for the current mayor Erem Imamoglu to become the unquestionable leader of the opposition – if the internal strife in the Republican People’s Party to which he belongs. Imamoglu has against him the entire government apparatus, but also opposition parties, which comes down in this election fragmented. Last day of campaigning today, Erem Imamoglu appealed to voters of all the parties of the fragmented opposition to come to the polls with a super-party stance for a “strong alliance of the people and conscience”. Deciding for Imamoglu is considered the vote of the Kurdish voters of the newly formed DEM party, which does not officially support him, but “closed his eye”, bringing down a weak nomination in Istanbul. The current mayor draws a significant percentage from the Kurdish voters’ “tank”, but not everyone in the party agrees on whether to support the DEM candidates or support Imamoglu. Unbearable are the pressure put just before the polls on Fatih Erbakan’s small Islamist party, the son of a former prime minister, who is gathering the protest vote of Erdogan’s dissatisfied voters, especially pensioners who are bending under the weight of accuracy, but also Islamists who, despite the harsh Erdogan speech against Israel about the Gaza war, accuse him of continuing and even increasing trade with Israel. The 3% rate estimated to be able to get, may deprive Kurum of the victory. The capital Ankara was lost by the ruling AKP also in the 2019 election by the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Manshur Yavas who will hold it in tomorrow’s elections, according to polls. The mayor of Ankara also welcomes the nationalist and conservative section of the electorate. Some polls even predict that 60% can be achieved. Smyrna, the third major city of the country, is traditionally a stronghold of Kemalists, and remains out of AKP’s reach, despite the deterioration of the Republican People’s Party, due to an internal conflict at local level. Source: RES-AE