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Istanbul mayoral candidates to debate in rare TV face-off

Turkey will have its first major political debate since 2002 as the ruling party takes extraordinary measures ahead of the second vote for Istanbul mayor.
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - JUNE 01: People walk past election posters of AK Parti candidate Binali Yildirim (L) and CHP Party, candidate Ekrem Imamoglu (R) during campaigning in the re-run of the Istanbul mayoral election on June 01, 2019 in Istanbul, Turkey. Imamoglu won a narrow victory during the first mayoral election held in March, defeating the candidate from President Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP). But Turkey’s election body annulled the result after claims of “irregularities,” and Imam

In healthy democracies, a candidate’s willingness to participate in a televised debate ahead of elections is not newsworthy. In Turkey, where the last major political debate took place in 2002, such a decision can be seen as a watershed moment.

On June 16, Binali Yildirim, the Istanbul mayoral candidate from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), agreed to take part in a debate with his rival, Ekrem Imamoglu of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), ahead of the do-over elections scheduled for June 23. In March, Imamoglu surprised many when he narrowly won the Istanbul mayoral seat — long held by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP and its ideological forerunners — but his victory was revoked after Turkey’s electoral board ruled some ballot box committees had violated electoral laws and a redo was set in motion.

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