Turkey’s first TV debate between two political rivals for the first time in 17 years, has become a milestone for democratization process of the country. During and after the debate, Republican People’s Party CHP’s Istanbul candidate Ekrem Imamoğlu has received over a hundred thousand new followers on his Twitter account and a sizable part of this group are coming from mostly pro-AKP backgrounds.
According to the analysis conducted by Onut Mat and Nilgün Yılmaz, National Alliance of the Opposition’s candidate for Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Ekrem Imamoğlu who had won the elections on March 31 but was denied his mandate for a period of 17 days, and yet after 18 days in the office through a decision to renew elections on May 6, currently has 2.7 million followers on his Twitter account. While it does not necessarily mean that a follower would be interpreted as electoral support, considering that one usually follows like-minded people on social media, shows that to follow someone means to be not listless against them, furthermore to be curious about their thoughts.
Among the followers that follow both Imamoğlu and a political party, CHP has the biggest correlation with 35.8%, which is to be expected as it is the party where he is already registered at. However, if we are to compare this to the most recent hundred thousand followers he received, there is a significant expansion in terms of party following bases.
VOTER SHIFT IN BETWEEN PARTIES AFTER A LONG TIME?
It has long been suggested that one of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s biggest success in politics had been consolidation of right wing voters in the same group that caused the opposition also to consolidate support behind them due to strategic voting. In the last 5 years especially when there has been held 7 elections, there has been but little change in terms of the support for political parties.
When Imamoğlu’s most recent hundred thousand followers are analyzed in terms of party following, majority of his followers are actually also following governing Justice & Development Party AKP with 30,5% and its ally Nationalist Movement Party MHP with 26.1%.
When these pie-charts are compared, among Ekrem Imamoğlu’s most recent followers appear to be by far the biggest group and this is not something that is comparable to other political leaders.
The same analysis can not be conducted for AKP’s candidate Binali Yıldırım due to Mr. Yıldırım taking over the official Twitter account of Parliamentary Speaker as of May 2019 and using it as his personal account, changing the username to @BY and this does not give a healthy result when taken under a retrospective analysis. However, Yıldırım’s most recent hundred thousand followers show that 71.3% correlate to Presidential Alliance parties with 40% following AKP and 27.3% following MHP. On the other hand only 28.7% follow opposition parties, with CHP being the biggest opposition group with 12.3%.
These numbers show that Ekrem Imamoğlu has been able to get his voice heard outside of his echo-chambers in a long-term polarized environment where transition between two camps has not been possible in a long time.