Istanbul mayoral candidates to hold first TV debate since early 2000s

Ekrem Imamoglu, the deposed mayor of Istanbul, and his rival Binali Yildirim from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) are expected to hold a televised debate on June 16, Reuters reported citing party officials on Monday.

The live television debate, which is to be broadcasted on all channels simultaneously, will be the first of its kind in Turkey at any political level since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP came to power in 2002.

AKP Chairman Mahir Unal and Engin Altay, deputy chairman of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), on Monday, announced that the two candidates will hold a debate on June 16 at 9 pm.

The announcement came after two days of talks between the two parties.

The televised debate, which CHP’s Imamoglu had proposed before the March 31 local elections, will be moderated by the opposition broadcaster Fox TV journalist Ismail Kucukkaya.

Ismail Saymaz, a reporter for the Hurriyet daily, said in his tweets on Monday that he talked to Kucukkaya and found out that the questions of the debate will be prepared by him and the debate will last for nearly three hours.

The CHP’s Altay also explained that the two parties agreed on some ground rules that include “equal speaking time and questions” during the debate, which reportedly originated from “the principle of objectivity.”

Istanbul’s ousted mayor said in a tweet soon after the announcement that he is “very pleased” that he will participate in the scheduled debate.

“I will be very pleased to discuss all aspects of Istanbul with you on Sunday, June 16 at 21:00 under the moderation of Ismail Kucukkaya. Good luck,” Imamoglu tweeted, addressing his rival Yildirim.

Devlet Bahceli, chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) that formed the People’s Alliance with the ruling AKP ahead of last year’s presidential election, condemned the both parties’ choice to have Kucukkaya moderate the debate.

“I cannot see which qualifications of Ismail Kucukkaya caused him to be selected as the one to moderate such an important [TV] program. If it is finalized that Ismail Kucukkaya is the moderator [of the debate], I will not watch TV as of 9 p.m. on June 16, and therefore, not follow the debate,” Bahceli on Monday said on Twitter.

Imamoglu, the Istanbul mayoral candidate from the main opposition CHP, won a narrow victory over AKP’s Yildirim in the March 31 local polls, marking a serious blow for Tayyip Erdogan, who started his political career as a mayor in the city in the 1990s.

However, Turkey’s top election board canceled the Istanbul mayoral election result and set a re-run for June 23 following weeks of AKP appeals that include alleged voting irregularities.

After less than a month in the office, CHP’s Imamoglu had to quit his post and return his official mandate as the mayor due to the ruling of the Supreme Election Council (YSK).

Istanbul’s deposed mayor leading in polls ahead of re-run: Reuters

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