Correspondent in Istanbul
Fahriye gloats as he trots towards the exit. "This time, victory is guaranteed," says the 63-year-old mother. Flowered scarf on red dress, she stamped "evet" (yes) under the photo of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, before slipping her ballot into the bottom of the ballot box. At the Muallim Yahya school, in the heart of the conservative district of Çarsamba, in the Fatih district of Istanbul, the re-election of the "reis" is not in doubt. "And today more than ever," insists this inveterate supporter, "disappointed" that the president, candidate for his succession, did not win in the first round. "We can understand: inflation and the earthquake of February 6 have sown doubt among some. But on the other hand, Kemal Kiliçdaroglu has nothing better to offer. So why take the risk of any changer?" she insists.
In his eyes, only the one whose giant poster dominates the sidewalk opposite proves convincing for the undecided of a fortnight ago and the voters of the third candidate (the ultranationalist Sinan Ogan, who openly called for a vote for "continuity"): "Look at all these bridges, these roads, these airports that Erdogan has built. In twenty years, I have seen Istanbul change with my own eyes. When we migrated thirty years ago from Kastamonu (on the Black Sea, editor's note) with my family, we had to queue for hours to go to the doctor. Now you have hospitals in every neighborhood! And the whole world has something to envy us.»
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In the schoolyard, a small crowd is improvised. Grey jacket over trousers, Yakup Yasar, the leader of the AKP, from the Fatih district, has just arrived. "Erdogan is the future. These are the drones, the new power plant, the warships," said the representative of the ruling party, handing out smiles and handshakes to voters. His mission of the day? "Tour the 53 schools in Fatih to ensure the smooth running of the election," he says confidently. "In the first round," he said, "Erdogan has already won 52.8% of the vote in our neighborhood."
"I vote with a heavy heart, but I vote anyway"
From the steps of a room, lawyer Nurdogan Bayratkas contemplates the scene with caution. At work since the opening of the polls at 8 a.m., he is one of the thousands of volunteer lawyers and observers mobilized throughout the country to monitor the ballot boxes and ensure the sincerity of the vote. "This is a crucial undertaking. In the first round, we lacked staff and organization," he said. But even if the cheating in the voting booth and during the count could be defused, he knows the political influence of twenty years difficult to fight in a fortnight: "When we are there to observe, AKP agents move to control. They have experience in the field. They have known the locals for years. It is a form of manipulation upstream, just like the inequality of the campaign, which ultimately translates into the ballot box.»
The media system put in place constitutes a massive rigging of elections by depriving citizens of democratic deliberation.
Erol Önderoglu of RSF
Unfair in the first round, the electoral campaign between the two rounds has seen a new batch of fake news and accusations directed against the opposition. All this in a context where the majority of the media have only relayed Ankara's remarks. "The media system set up constitutes a massive rigging of elections by depriving citizens of democratic deliberation," RSF's Erol Önderoglu said. "I vote with a heavy heart, but I vote anyway," insists Rabia, in her forties, outside the Findinkli school in Gümüssuyu. It would have a thousand reasons to shun the ballot box. The anti-migrant turn of her favorite candidate, Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, to grab votes from the far right, disappointed her with this man she saw as a "Gandhi". This second round, which takes place ten years to the day after the repression of the demonstrations in Gezi Park, a stone's throw from here, also reminds him of the fragility of the word "freedom" in his country. Without much hope, she nevertheless wanted to renew her confidence in Erdogan's rival. "Voting is my last way of protesting!" she says.