Live TV Debate by İmamoğlu and Yıldırım Ahead of İstanbul Repeat Elections

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  • June 17, 2019
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The live TV debate of ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) İstanbul Metropolitan Mayoral candidate Binali Yıldırım and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu was held at Lütfi Kırdar Convention Exhibition Center yesterday (June 16).

Starting at 9.05 p.m., the program coulld be aired by all TV channels and websites as they wished and it was moderated by İsmail Küçükkaya, who respectively directed questions to both candidates and asked them to answer them in 3 minutes without interrupting each other.

While the question in the first part of the debate focused on March 31 local elections and the annulment of İstanbul Metropolitan mayoral elections, the second part focused more on the electoral pledges of both sides.

After the program, the candidates had the above picture taken with their families and moderator İsmail Küçükkaya.

Some highlights from the debate were as follows:

‘Why do we hold repeat elections?’

Yıldırım: “We preferred that the elections would not be rerun, we made great effort for that. The CHP did not help us there, they did not accept our request for recounting votes. We wish that the votes had been counted again.

“The votes were stolen. What do I mean by that? The votes were counted, 10 percent of them were counted, the margin closed. It means, if the remaining 90 percent had been recounted, the result would have changed.

“The Supreme Election Council (YSK) is the one to find [who stole the votes]. Stealing the votes and relocating them are the same thing.”

‘Why did the AA cut data flow?’

İmamoğlu: “We wanted the votes to be recounted. Stating that the CHP did not want it is a completely false comment.

“Let us remember the night of March 31. Yıldırım made a statement and said, ‘I have won the elections.’ At that exact moment, the [state-run] Anadolu Agency (AA) cut the data flow. Yıldırım has no explanation for that.

“Ballot boxes were counted. Taken together with invalid votes, the margin reduced to 13 thousand 88. They counted the votes on a random basis, the result was in favor of us. İstanbul election is as clean as a whistle.

“You cannot just say, ‘They have stolen.’ There is slander. Whom do you say that? Do you say them to political parties at ballot boxes? Who stole them?”

‘This process is fiction’

“Yıldırım said, ‘Let’s pass the evening of March 31.’ No, we cannot just pass it. The night of March 31, the AA’s cutting of data flow, Yıldırım’s announcement that he won…

“They hung posters everywhere that read ‘The municipalism of heart has won.’ If we had not run after the minutes of ballot boxes, then everything would have been over at that night.

“There are thousands of our brothers and sisters who were the district chairs at that night. If there are errors of fact, they can be corrected. But there are no legal precedents as to the recount of votes. This process if a fiction.”

‘What did you do in 18 days when you were mayor?’

“When we first announced our electoral pledges, they told us, ‘Where will you find the money for that?’ They might have also pledged a price cutting in water bills, but it was we who brought the issue into agenda. 25 years! Of course, you do it, you were elected in 1994.

“But, there is no sense in attributing what we did in 18 days to yourself. It was our projects to make public transportation free of charge in public holidays and to make a reduction in water billis.

“We pledged them and we realized them.

‘Why did you replicate data?’

(About replication of data when İmamoğlu was in office as Metroplitan Mayor) “I am reminding Yıldırım with his own words. Yıldırım said that a mayor can take all types of actions about his or her actions. We are also receiving notices… Then again, it could not be done, time did not suffice. And the court verdict is an unlawful one anyway.

“Taking such a simple action as data backup to somewhere else… The data of Metropolitan Municipality are there anyway and the backup data would be stored there as well. It is a shame, a pity…”

‘FETÖ’ debate in the second part

Before answering the question of Küçükkaya in the second part, Yıldırım referred to the replication of data by saying “it is a tactic of the FETÖ (Fethullahist Terrorist Organization, which is held responsible for the coup attempt on July 15, 2016).

Yıldırım said, “Backing up data is a tactic of the FETÖ. FETÖ did it in the past. It is a catastrophe in itself.”

In response to the allegations of FETÖ, İmamoğlu answered, “I do not know how the FETÖ operates, I do not understand them…

“But let me put this clearly: Replication of data is something innocent. But let me also give an example: While data were being replicated, the lists of restricted voters were given to the AKP.

“If they want an example, then I am giving an example on how personal information is used.”

The funds allocated to foundations

Answering the questions of Küçükkaya, İmamoğlu also rejected the allegation that he insulted Ordu Governor, moderator Küçükkaya addressed the allegation that he gave the questions to Yıldırım beforehand.

“The allegation that questions were given to Yıldırım was not first uttered by İmamoğlu,” Küçükkaya underlined.

While İmamoğlu shared details about the funds allocated to a series of foundations by the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality for the last 15 years, Yıldırım answered that “foundations do the jobs municipalities cannot.”

Concluding their remarks, both candidate also announced their electoral pledges regarding urban poverty, transportation, refugees, women, children and green spaces. (AS/PT/SD)