On Sunday 16 June 2019, precisely a week before voters in Istanbul went back to the polls to elect their mayor, Turkey held its first major televised debate between senior political leaders in over 16 years. The governing AK Party’s Binali Yıldırım faced the CHP’s Ekrem İmamoğlu in a debate moderated by Fox TV newsreader İsmail Küçükkaya.
JamesInTurkey.com commentated on the debate as it was broadcast on Twitter; the full content of those tweets can also be read here.
In response to an İmamoğlu question to him, Yıldırım accepts it is “not a normal thing” that the Anadolu Agency stopped reporting results on the night of the March 31, but maintains his line that it is not his responsibility.
Yıldırım says these are natural: his party won a significant victory across the country that night and that similar posters appeared everywhere.
He says it is wrong to attach nefarious purposes to this — it was his right as mayor to do it, the data was stored onsite at all times
İmamoğlu rebuts that they too reserve the right, but for sensible reasons.
“There were no winners and losers on March 31,” Yıldırım replies. “There would be no repeat if there were.”
Ekrem İmamoğlu has not done it once.
He’s assured he will have more time to talk about those.
Turkey does live TV debates differently.
Ekrem İmamoğlu says young people will receive a 40% travel discount. Students already benefit from this. Student accommodation, language learning schools are among his pledges.
He says he cannot offer scholarships because councils were banned from doing so, accusing the CHP of seeking the court action that led to that decision.
We will knock half an hour off commuting time with our rail and bus projects, he says.
The director produces a new camera angle so we can actually see his cards.
Ekrem İmamoğlu begins on a unity message – “We all need to work together” – but it’s becoming a bit untidy and anarchic because the moderator is trying to bring in the candidates’ families into the studio at the same time.
He’s reeling off a list of projects fairly fluidly, unencumbered by the loud family photograph planning that went on during İmamoğlu’s pitch.
“I saw nothing wrong,” Binali Yıldırım says. “It was as good as it could be.”
Turkey is unaccustomed to live TV debates and İsmail Küçükkaya did well in the circumstances: he ensured candidates kept to allotted time and largely prevented personal attacks – although Yıldırım did get a few jibes in at İmamoğlu.
It was good for Turkish democracy that he did the debate, but I can’t see it helping his candidacy.
On that note, that’s me out. Good night!