Turkey’s long-awaited live debate between the two mayoral candidates of Istanbul, Binali Yildirim and Ekrem Imamoglu, took place on Sunday night. Despite high expectations and controversies, the live debate did not end up with any shocking events or scandals. Thus, both candidates showed a decent performance and there was no unfair balance in their appearance at the debate.
After the live debates in the U.S., survey companies conduct an instant survey to show the true winner of the debate. Nevertheless, the format of the program in Turkey was not designed in a way that enabled being able to choose the winner of the debate. Throughout the program, two candidates never engaged in a face-to-face dialogue. Rather than being in direct interactions, the two candidates separately answered the questions of the moderator.
Imamoglu underlined that he had never allowed the sale of alcohol at social facilities during his mayorship in Beylikduzu province. These statements created anger and frustration among his supporters.
Although the public complained that the program was dull and that the moderator ought to have allowed the two sides to interact with each other, there were small incidents that raised tensions throughout the program. The most prominent incident was Ekrem Imamoglu’s statements on the ban of alcohol and gender-segregated pools. Imamoglu underlined that he had never allowed the sale of alcohol at social facilities during his mayorship in Beylikduzu province. He also stated that he built gender-segregated pools in Beylikduzu while he was trying to show his “respect to conservative values.” Nonetheless, Imamoglu’s statements created anger and frustration among his supporters and this issue became one of the most controversial outcomes of the live debate.
Even though a true winner of the debate cannot be declared, there is a public consensus that Binali Yildirim was more successful in answering the questions of the moderator. Indeed, Yildirim showed great success in explaining the reason of the cancellation of the Istanbul elections by emphasizing his demand on a re-count of votes rather than a cancellation. When it comes to Imamoglu, he could not clearly answer most of the questions asked by the moderator. Imamoglu could not make a satisfactory explanation on his humiliation of the Governor of Ordu and his intention to copy data from the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.
Even though a true winner of the debate cannot be declared, there is a public consensus that Binali Yildirim was more successful in answering the questions of the moderator.
Nevertheless, both candidates have well-prepared projects on resolving the structural problems of Istanbul, such as transportation, traffic, and youth unemployment. Yildirim clearly identified how he was going to find resources to implement his projects on these structural problems. Imamoglu also provided information on his long-term projects on the resolution of green area problems and youth unemployment in Istanbul.
Both candidates had a consensus on the importance of the problem of Syrian refugees in Turkey. However, they had a different road map in the resolution of this issue in the long-term. While Yildirim underlined that refugees would return to their countries after creating conflict-free zones in Syria, Imamoglu spoke about a project on creating a distinct zone for Syrian refugees before sending them back to their countries. It is fair to state that both candidates failed to mention the rise of hate speech against Syrian refugees in Turkey.
It seems that the live debate between the two candidates did not create a huge impact on the electorate. Nevertheless, Yildirim’s performance on the live debate may create an effect on the previous AK Party voters who did not go to the polls on March 31. Beyond all these issues, the live debate was a triumph for Turkish democracy, which indeed, was the true winner of the live debate on Sunday night.