Istanbul holds televised mayoral debate ahead of election rerun

Istanbul holds televised mayoral debate ahead of election rerun

Istanbul will host a televised debate—the first in Turkey since 2002—between Ekrem Imamoglu and Binali Yildirim, ahead of a rerun

KURXAUFC7BBYRDWXVIWR6JX7XI

Photo: Reuters

Istanbul will host a televised debate—the first in Turkey since 2002—between Ekrem Imamoglu and Binali Yildirim, ahead of a rerun election scheduled for June 23.

Mr Imamoglu, of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), was declared the winner of the March 31 first vote by a slim margin. However, Mr Yildirim—the standard-bearer for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamic nationalist AK party (AKP)—successfully challenged the result over alleged vote-rigging and new elections were ordered.

The fact that Mr Yildirim—trailing by three points or more in several polls—has agreed to the televised debate suggests the AKP is worried about losing the second vote. Indeed, it’s a major departure from the normal AKP campaign strategy of controlled rallies. Expect Yildirim to emphasise his own governing credentials of delivering major Istanbul transport projects as a former Transport minister, while downplaying Erdogan’s importance to his campaign.

While the election is anticipated to be close, Mr Imamoglu is favoured to win once again. For the AKP, another loss will further undermine Erdogan’s aura of invincibility; burnished in part from his control of Istanbul. Given this, watch for AKP challenging the result should they lose again. Regardless, AKP’s underplaying of Erdogan’s image in the election already suggests Erdogan’s waning star power, possibly fuelling a genuine presidential challenge in future.

Wake up smarter with an assessment of the stories that will make headlines in the next 24 hours. Download The Daily Brief.