CHP’s campaigner advises opponents to voice “injustice” in Istanbul re-run

An election campaign manager for the main opposition party on Thursday warned opposition circles about their excessive enthusiasm after the vote annulment ruling of Turkey’s election board and called on them to deliver the message of “injustice” to which they have been subjected.

Ekrem Imamoglu, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), defeated the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the Istanbul mayoral polls on March 31.

The Supreme Electoral Council (YSK), however, yielded to an extraordinary objection filed by the AKP, which demanded that the Istanbul mayoral election results be annulled and that the poll be held again.

The council stated that the legal basis for accepting the AKP appeal was that 3,755 polling officials were not public servants, which is contrary to the law.

In response to the YSK ruling, the deposed Imamoglu delivered an arguably enthusiastic speech on “everything is going to be fine” and called on the public figures to speak out against the “injustice” ruling.

Following the speech, many popular and well-known personalities responded to Imamoglu’s call, sharing humorous messages on the Internet.

Ates Ilyas Bassoy, CHP’s political communication advisor, posted a Facebook message criticizing “the exaggerated festive tone” that he says dominated the messages of the AKP dissidents after a terribly unjust YSK ruling.

“If the YSK ruled such a decision against them [the AKP], if it said, ‘there is a fraud
in the presidential election, thus there will be a re-run,’ they [AKP] would
create a victimhood narrative that would last 40 years,” Bassoy argued.

The CHP campaign strategist also called for Imamoglu’s supporters to avoid turning the re-run campaign into an elite one, and that they should find ways to convey the message of “injustice to everyone”, even to the AKP backers.

“This is the time to work and to win the hearts [of the AKP supporters], it is not the time to retire to our echo chambers and chit chat. We must explain this injustice [YSK’s annulment decision] to everyone very well,” the advisor said.

Bassoy’s message added to the hashtag “everything is going to be fine”, which became the opposition slogan after Imamoglu’s speech, with the caption “everything is going to be very hard”.

“Everything is going to be fine after [upcoming re-run election on] June 23, but you can be sure that everything is going to be very hard until then,” Bassoy concluded.

The name behind CHP’s communication strategy

Many believe that CHP has long suffered from not reaching out to wider segments of society. However, this seemed to change during the 31 March local elections, especially in big cities such as Istanbul and Ankara, which both fell into CHP’s hands after being ruled by the governing AKP for a quarter-century.

The change is reportedly due to a brand-new communication strategy called “radical love”, devised by Bassoy, CHP’s political communication advisor.

The strategy is detailed in his “radical love” book that is based on a comprehensive field study throughout the country. He wrote the book after a four-month Turkey tour and distributed it within the CHP shortly before the elections.

Bassoy instructed CHP’s politicians to give up “the language of rage” – attacking their opponents – and, instead, speak the “language of love.”

“I worked with all the mayors who were elected. I told them they need to update their language,” Bassoy told Middle East Eye.

“As long as we were getting angry, our rival was becoming much more powerful. We tried it several times and we were beaten each time. Our rival was fed by fear and anger,” he said in an interview with Euronews.

As a strategy, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long used tactics to stir up tensions between groups in highly polarized environments in Turkey. The president has repeatedly called his dissidents terrorists and traitors. The run-up to the March 31 elections was no different in terms of Erdogan’s rhetoric.

“I think the CHP has been doing politics wrong for ages, and that always worked in the AKP’s favor. Imamoglu always speaks politely and courteously. When he talks like that, the AKP doesn’t know what to do,” said Bassoy.

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