The voters’ decision in ?stanbul’s Fatih may turn out to be staying away from the polls

The debate between MHP officials and the women, those who have lost their hope in AKP, those who prefer to keep silent, the woman who says that she will go to the polls with her conscience... Impressions from Fatih, "the castle of AKP," when two days are left to the May 14 elections... There is no life in the election office of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and even the party officials waiting in the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) seem to be bored...

We are in the historical Fatih district in Istanbul.

Modern buildings rise next to the old houses, mosques stand in the shade of the huge city walls... We are walking on Akdeniz Avenue which has busy traffic.

Fatih’is population is 368.227 according to TurkStat. 183.320 men and 184.907 women.

In the general elections on June 24, 2018, Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AKP received 47.81 percent while Kemal Kiliçdaroglu's Republican People's Party (CHP) 23.45 percent of the votes in Fatih.

In the local elections in 2019, AKP got 53 percent and CHP 36 percent of the votes.

People are silent

In Fatih, where there are strong conservative social structures, a district known as a stronghold of AKP, we may come up with something different from the past elections this time.

You can understand this at the AKP election office on Akdeniz Avenue. Normally, in previous elections, this would be a center that the citizens visit a lot, and have political conversations. But this time it is silent.

Two men are on duty. When they learn that I am a journalist, one of them says, "The economy collapsed. And what if it had not? Look, there was the pandemic and we could not even go out." The other man adds, "We want freedom..." For a moment I am confused, have I come to the election office of the opposition by mistake? Both are miserable because of the economic problems and the limiting of freedoms.

Not a single flag of the Green Left Party

The National Anthem breaks the silence. There is no one who stops and listens to the anthem other than us. I tell them that it is the first time that I see such an election office of AKP, and they agree nodding.

I walk along the avenue. I see many flags and posters of AKP, Erdogan, Devlet Bahçeli, and the New Welfare Party. There is not a single flag of the Green and Left Party, and only one banner with the candidate of CHP strikes my attention.

"Will they try all of us?"

I want to listen to the women here in Fatih. I ask around 10 women on my way, "The elections are coming. Are you going to cast your vote? What do you think?" None of them wants to speak.

Women used to speak when I came here in the past, but I will not be exaggerating if I say that now they have lapsed into silence. In fact, the women tell a lot by preferring to keep silent.

Because one of them, a woman says, "It will be very bad if I talk." I ask her, "Who are you angry at?" "Those who are in power and who fool us," she says. She does not speak further no matter how much I insist. The other women, probably thinking that they will get in trouble if they speak, do not talk to me either.

When I understand that it will not be possible to get the opinions of the women, I start asking questions to shopkeepers. I enter each shop. Many are troubled about the economy, and the elections are on their agenda, but there are few that speak of AKP. There are those who say "Our position is known," but there are others who say, "I will not go to the polls."

A woman working in a shop selling wedding dresses says, "My father is a strong supporter of AKP, but I am not. My father works for the party, he is with them all the time. But I think differently. I am going to leave the country if they win the elections," she says. And she asks me, "Isn't it clear who will be winning?" We smile

One person standing on an AKP stand says that it is Ahmet Sik that he is most angry at. I ask him why. "He keeps saying you will stand trial. Will we, the members also be tried? Is he threatening us?" He is both sad and confused. I leave him, not knowing what to tell him.

“I will not vote for them”

At the end of the avenue, I see the stand of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) this time. I first observe the stand from a distance. There is a heated debate. The discussion is between the MHP officials and the women, and the issue is the misogynist policies of the Free Cause (Hüda Par) Party.

A woman, who does not want to be named, says, "My widow's pension is 5 thousand and 500 lira. They did not increase my pension. Erdogan had said that they would increase it to 7 thousand but they did not. How can MHP join with Hüda-Par? They are a terrorist organization," she says. The discussion becomes more heated each time she says "Hüda-Par is a terrorist organization."

She tells me, "We will not vote for those who lock the women inside the houses," other women passing by give applause. I observe without getting into the discussion, I listen to a young woman passing by:

"I will not vote for these people either. I am going now, to clean the stairs of an apartment. He has brought everyone to Istanbul. I used to receive one thousand but I could make my living. Now I receive 4 thousand but I cannot. I will not vote for them."

While the discussion between the MHP officials and the women continue, I ask permission in order to take a picture of the women, but I cannot get it. The woman who is going to the building where she will be cleaning the stairs tells me, "Do not take my picture but write my words. I have voted for them for 30 years. This time I will go to the polls with my conscience.

This is what is my mind, on my way back from Fatih. I hope everybody will go to the polls this Sunday on May 14 with their conscience...

Source: English Bianet