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Turkey's Ruling Party Lures Voters in Opposition Stronghold

  • Dorian Jones

Turkey’s AK Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in parliament to rewrite the constitution.

AK Party member of parliament, Nesrin Ulema is rallying the party faithful. The party needs to score heavily in opposition strongholds like Izmir if it is to achieve its goal.

Ulema, is confident they have a broad appealing message.

"We are initiating a period with giant projects aimed at our people but at the same time that will keep us in the competition with the world," she said. "For this new period we have taken the steps for two nuclear power stations, also for one of the biggest airports in the world."

A decade of economic prosperity has been key to AK Party success and broad appeal, even in opposition strongholds. But the economy is now slowing. In areas, which traditionally offer strong AK support, there are grumbles about business. The AK Party is also running its first election without its charismatic leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is now president.

Prime minister facing challenges

FILE - Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu addresses lawmakers from his ruling AK Party (AKP) at the Turkish parliament in Ankara January 6, 2015.

FILE - Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu addresses lawmakers from his ruling AK Party (AKP) at the Turkish parliament in Ankara January 6, 2015.

Ahmet Davutoglu is the leader facing the challenge, says Betul Durmaz, a teacher of sociology at Izmir's Gediz University.

"Recep Tayyip Erdogan was a very strong leader and right now we saw that Davutoglu is still doing lots of mistakes. For that reason voters are still confused who is the leader of the AKP," she said.

But in Izmir, the AK Party like in the rest of the county has a formidable party machine that no other party can rival. That advantage has been key to its previous electoral success and could yet prove decisive in next month's elections, says AK member of parliament Ulema.

"This is the biggest secret behind AK party, which resulted in its 14 years in power and success in 9 consecutive elections," said Ulema. "Our party has about 4 million female members, and behind all of our political success lies house visits of our women branches and women members."

Ulema is using this advantage to the fullest and people appreciate.

"These visits are great. We can talk about problems, face-to-face," one woman said.

Izmir is a staunchly secular city whose voters fear the growing conservatism of the current government. As a result, the ruling party is pressing hard to make inroads in this city using its grassroots canvassing in the living rooms of the electorate.

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