Istanbul may be sweltering under an oppressive, muggy heat, but the political climate in the city seems much calmer. A stroll around some of the Old City's central public spaces today revealed a surprising degree of indifference to Sunday's election, despite the vote's importance for the country's future and as a test of confidence in the ruling AK Party.
Down by Galata Bridge, some of the main parties had set up campaign stands in the shadow of the New Mosque. The AKP, the opposition CHP, and the smaller Democratic Left Party (DSP) and Felicity Party (SP) all had campaign stands out.
But the crowds pouring through from the city were more interested in the entertainments on the waterfront, and most of the campaign stands were pretty forlorn - despite it being a Friday afternoon after prayers.
The bus of the DSP had an impressive sound system, but it wasn't exactly surrounded by supporters.
If a party's prospects in this election can be judged by the quality of their campaign stands on a hot Friday in Istanbul - hardly a scientific method of predicting the result, admittedly - the AKP will win a resounding triumph.
Although the AKP's campaigners weren't too dynamic, and their stand was almost as deserted as those of the other parties, it was flanked by an enormous video screen pumping out Prime Minister Erdoğan's campaign song (which drowned out the SP's own audio message). The screen was set atop an enormous advertisement of the premier looking into the distance, steely-jawed.
|Erdoğan contemplates the future|
This was hardly a mass rally or a real demonstration of the AKP's ubiquity (the endless Erdoğan billboards on the road from the airport to the city are a better sign of that), but even so it was streets ahead of the CHP's showing by the Galata Bridge. In early afternoon the main opposition had no presence in the square: by 2.30pma handful of enthusiastic teenage volunteers from the party of Atatürk were attempting to assemble a couple of waist-high campaign stands, without much success. By contrast the DSP's outreach efforts were quite impressive given that the party was predicted to win just 0.9% of the vote in an April poll by Marmara.
None of this is exactly scientific, of course, and I am wary of straying into Tom Friedman territory, but the scene down by the Galata Bridge may be an indication of how things stand. In the face of surprising public indifference, the AKP drowns out most of the opposition, whilst the CHP, despite ample enthusiasm, is unable to get its act together.