“No” votes lost in Turkey overall in the April 16 referendum on shifting the country to an executive presidential system, but they came top in Turkey’s three largest cities: Istanbul, the capital Ankara and the western province of İzmir.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has previously repeatedly stated that “one who wins a majority in Istanbul wins all of Turkey,” thus suffered a shock on April 16, despite carrying out an intense campaign in the country’s largest city.
While the AKP, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the leadership of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) campaigned for a “yes” vote, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Kurdish issue-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and MHP dissidents were on the “no” side in the referendum.
President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım addressed a huge crowd in a campaign rally in Istanbul’s Yenikapı together on April 8, and both held four rallies each in different Istanbul districts one day before the referendum.
However, this intense focus did not yield the desired results for the “yes” camp, with the “no” bloc winning a narrow majority in Istanbul. The “yes” vote in Istanbul was at 48.65 percent in the referendum while the “no” vote was at 51.35 percent.
When the results are compared with the outcome of the most recent Nov. 1, 2015 general election, in which the AKP won 48.72 percent of the vote in Istanbul and the MHP won 8.59 percent, totaling 57.31 percent, it can be seen that the “yes” bloc lost a significant portion of votes.
The CHP won 30.44 percent of the vote and the HDP won 10.55 percent of the vote in Istanbul in the November 2015 election, totaling 40.99 percent. This total is over 10 percentage points lower than the “No” votes in Istanbul in the April 16 referendum.
In terms of districts, the “yes” camp suffered significant vote losses in the hard-scrabble Sultanbeyli, Sultangazi and Esenler districts, in which the AKP won a high amount of votes in the previous election.
Kadıköy followed Beşiktaş with 80.2 percent and Bakırköy was third with 77.42 percent of “no” votes.
“Yes” votes stood at 70.48 percent in Sultanbeyli, in which the AKP and the MHP won a joint total of 72.76 percent in November 2015. The “no” bloc won 29.5 percent in the district in the referendum, up from 24.57 percent in November 2015.
One particularly attention grabbing result emerged from the conservative district of Üsküdar, where the AKP and the MHP won a cumulative 57.47 percent of the votes in November 2015 but where “yes” votes could only muster 46.8 percent.
In the capital Ankara, “no” votes won 51 percent of the vote in the referendum, far below the combined AKP-MHP vote of 62.99 percent in the November 2015 election.
In the CHP stronghold district of Çankaya 78.2 percent voted “no,” while 57.5 percent in the Yenimahalle district voted “no.” Although only five out of Ankara’s 25 districts voted “no” overall, the scale of “no” vote in those five districts was enough to tip the balance.
Long-serving Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek predicted “yes” votes at 58 percent in the city, overestimating the final result by almost 10 percent.
Initial evaluations made by the AKP put the underperformance in the referendum down to the fact that the referendum was on a systemic change rather than a party platform. The inverse proportion between education level and urbanization is also seen as key.
In the CHP stronghold of İzmir, meanwhile, the “yes” camp suffered a major defeat. Despite the fact that Yıldırım campaigned in many of the city’s districts, “no” votes won 68.76 percent of the votes in the referendum, corresponding to a 13.36 percent increase in the “no” bloc compared to the November 2015 election.
The cumulative AKP-MHP “yes” camp was at 42.38 percent in İzmir in the last general election and therefore fell by 11.14 percentage points in the referendum.
In the Bergama district, which is among the most significant ones for the AKP and the MHP in İzmir, “no” votes reached 59.44 percent, while “yes” votes stood at 40.56 percent.