AKP changes strategy for Istanbul rerun – turns to non-voters

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has changed its campaigning strategy for the upcoming mayoral election rerun in Istanbul and will endeavor to reach non-voters, according to a news report by the Deutsche Welle (DW) Turkish service on Thursday.

The governing AKP was confident that the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) would rule in its favor and has therefore already been preparing for a new campaigning strategy for the rerun, sources within the party told DW Turkish.

Binali Yildirim, a former prime minister and the ruling AKP’s mayoral candidate for Istanbul, lost the race by a slight margin to the main opposition, secular Republican People’s Party (CHP)’s Ekrem Imamoglu, on the March 31 local polls.

Following the defeat, AKP submitted appeals to the YSK requesting that they annul and rerun the mayoral polls in Istanbul due to alleged voting irregularities. The council accepted the appeal, stating that the legal basis for the ruling was because 3,755 polling officials were not public servants, which is contrary to the law.

Members of the governing AKP will put all their effort into trying to convince the 1,7 million non-voters to cast their votes for Yildirim on the June 23 rerun. Yildirim garnered around 13,000 votes less than Imamoglu on March 31, and the non-voters will now be spoken to one-on-one by AKP.

According to sources, the AKP administration hopes to get more than 1 million non-voters to vote for their candidate by sending AKP deputies and members to the field in groups.

Votes from Kurdish citizens are also essential for AKP’s win, sources said. Therefore, they stated that AKP will meet with non-governmental organization representatives and Kurdish opinion leaders in Istanbul’s mostly Kurdish populated districts such as Esenyurt, Arnavutkoy, and Avcilar.

AKP will arrange small-scale meetings instead of organizing large-scale rallies, partly because it will be hard for people to attend rallies during Ramadan.

Muslims observe Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar, through daytime fasting during which eating or drinking is prohibited.

If it becomes necessary, AKP will send its former deputies of Kurdish origin to negotiate with Kurdish opinion leaders who can influence large masses of people, sources also said.

The same sources added that those who do the negotiating will appear as a group acting outside AKP’s system so as not to irritate the party’s nationalist ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

The governing party’s Election Coordination Center will be led by Mehmet Ozhaseki, AKP’s mayoral candidate for Ankara who also lost the race on March 31, in an attempt to convince businessmen in Istanbul to vote for them through tenders and job offers.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will quit his “matter of survival” rhetoric and polarizing language until the rerun because it was of no use in the March 31 local elections, according to the party sources.

While campaigning for the local elections, Erdogan always said that the elections are not only votes to decide who should collect the garbage and maintain the roads, but are about Turkey’s future national “survival.”

The Turkish President is expected to hold a few rallies for AKP’s Yildirim after the Eid al-Fitr, which will be observed by Muslims in Turkey for three days starting on June 4.

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