Istanbul: TV debate without a clear winner

In a TV debate before the repeat election for the post of Istanbul mayor opposition candidate İmamoğlu faced off against his rival Yıldırım from the ruling Islamic conservative AKP party. This was the country's first televised debate since 2002, the year the AKP took power. What does the contest for the top post in Istanbul portend for Turkey as a whole?

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Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

One good thing about this needless campaign

In view of the economic crisis Turkey can't really afford this election campaign, the Süddeutsche Zeitung comments:

“Erdoğan and his AKP have forced the country into a new and expensive election campaign, for the sole reason that they couldn't get over their defeat in the contest for mayor of Istanbul. Istanbul is Turkey's money machine, and the person who occupies the city hall has lucrative contracts to award. The web of favours and corruption will nip any attempt at a change of government in the bud, and there's no telling when it will grow again if democracy can't make it happen. But there is one good thing about this needless campaign: it's given the country a TV debate the likes of which we haven't seen since Erdoğan took power. So the Turkish media, which lost its courage long ago, has now done democracy a service.”

Habertürk (TR) /

An unfortunate format

During the debate the candidates didn't talk to each other but simply had three minutes to answer each question, a format that was criticised by many viewers. Columnist Bengisu Karaca shows understanding for the criticism in Habertürk:

“The answer to the question of whether the programme was satisfactory is unfortunately: no. Because in this debate, which by nature should have been along the lines of a 'hard talk' show, there was no discussion. It would have been too easy to blame a journalist who has already been presenting a successful morning show for years for this. I am among those who say that there simply wasn't anything more to be squeezed out of this format. The efforts to stick to the rules reduced the potential for an exciting discussion.”

Artı Gerçek (TR) /

AKP's strategy ineffective

The AKP's desperation at the prospect of defeat in Istanbul drove the party leadership to send candidate Yıldırım into an unwinnable TV debate, Artı Gerçek writes:

“The AKP clearly felt forced to let its candidate for Istanbul, Binali Yıldırım, face off on television against the CHP candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu. Because it's in danger of losing Istanbul. So as a last resort it sent Binali Yıldırım into the ring. ... The fear of losing Istanbul has led Erdoğan to set aside his 'arrogance of power'. ... Nevertheless Erdoğan's last hope, namely that this TV debate would show things in a completely new light, has been dashed.”