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Oy Ve Ötesi, the Role of a Civil Society Movement Ahead the 2019 Istanbul’s Mayoral Election Rerun

Democracy
Elections
Local Government
Southern Europe
Activism
Matteo Mastracci
Koç University
Matteo Mastracci
Koç University

Abstract

Since it came to power in the 2002 general election, the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) has been playing the leading role in Turkish politics as a powerful populist actor. Thus, and by its very nature, AKP has conducted highly divisive rhetoric, followed by extreme polarization in which the latest piece is the electoral rerun that took place in Istanbul on June 23, 2019. In actual fact, after the defeat that occurred in the first round, local AKP members filed a complaint with the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) asking for a novel electoral episode, and hoping for a better fate. During this fragile and over-polarized scenario, the paper claims that various form of civic engagement and the role of civil society, in particular the contribution given by Vote and Beyond (Oy ve Ötesi), have played a decisive part in raising public awareness and eventually in reducing the gap between electorate and political choices. In the final analysis, the impact of Vote and Beyond, as the name suggests, seems to exceed the phenomenon of mere participation in typical electoral arenas as it appears to successfully shape civil consciousness towards a less polarized path.