Ekrem Imamoglu, the ousted mayor of Istanbul, is leading the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidate by three percentage points ahead of the re-run in June, according to an opinion poll conducted for the AKP campaign.
Reuters reported on Thursday, quoting an AKP official, that the secular Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Istanbul mayoral candidate Imamoglu is currently ahead of the governing party’s Binali Yildirim, who is also Turkey’s former prime minister.
“There were polls where Imamoglu was further ahead, but according to the latest poll conducted by our party, Imamoglu is three points ahead,” the AKP official said.
The poll is broadly in line with other surveys of voter intentions in recent days in Turkey’s commercial hub, Istanbul, Reuters indicated in the report.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP aims, on June 23, to reverse a dramatic and narrow loss to CHP’s Imamoglu in the March 31 local elections, which was one of the biggest setbacks to Erdogan’s 16-year hold on power.
Istanbul, the largest city of Turkey, has been ruled by the AKP government and its Islamist predecessors for the past 25 years.
Officials from the AKP expect that President Erdogan, who has won in more than a dozen elections throughout his political career, can turn the vote in favor of their candidate Yildirim.
As a bitter and confrontational AKP campaign failed to bring them victory in March polls, party officials have argued that Erdogan may also need a change of tone.
According to a source close to the AKP, the June elections’ campaign will be “much nicer and milder.”
“Erdogan will increasingly put weight on Istanbul in the coming days as the vote approaches.
Yildirim has a chance,” the same source added.
However, the Turkish president will be campaigning in the depths of an economic recession in the country that has eroded support for the ruling AKP.
Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) canceled the result of March mayoral election in Istanbul following complaints of alleged voting irregularities prepared by the ruling AKP.
Newly-elected Imamoglu had to quit his office after less than three weeks due to the council’s ruling for a repeat of Istanbul mayoral election on June 23.
Imamoglu’s lead over Yildirim in opinion polls is partly due to the public unease at the annulment of the March 31 vote result, said Mehmet Ali Kulat, the chairman of the pro-government pollster MAK.
He underlined that Kurdish voters, which formed the majority of non-voters in the March ballot, would be the key to the next month’s Istanbul re-run.
The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) did not put up candidates in a number of important cities in Turkey’s west, including Istanbul, and urged its supporters to vote for the opposition candidates.
This move of HDP left most of the Kurds’ votes to Imamoglu in Istanbul, while the AKP also attracted some of the Kurdish support.
Although the pro-Kurdish party previously announced that it would support Imamoglu in June, AKP will also be seeking to build on the current support that he has of Kurds.
Kulat also told Reuters that Kurdish voters’ stance will be “critical” in June re-run because they make up around 15 percent of Istanbul’s population of more than 15 million.
On the other hand, Suleyman Celebi, an Istanbul deputy for the main opposition CHP, said that the party would not seek a special approach to win over Kurdish voters, but would be trying to maximize support across the city.
Onursal Adiguzel, CHP deputy chairman, also told Reuters that his party members would not let themselves feel relieved about the upcoming elections merely because the polls showed Imamoglu a few points ahead of Yildirim.
“We are racing against a candidate who uses all of the state’s resources and the president, so we will not act based on polls,” Adiguzel emphasized.
Final results of the March mayoral election in Istanbul showed Imamoglu earning 48.80 percent, while AKP’s Yildirim had 48.55 percent.