Nationwide, the CHP only managed to get 2 percent more votes than in general elections in 2007. But in Istanbul, Turkey's biggest city, it increased votes by 10 percent, losing by a neck to a popular mayor from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). "Win Istanbul and you are half way to winning Turkey", says Adil Gur, a leading pollster. "A CHP victory would have been a huge coup."
What was the secret of the CHP's Istanbul success? Analysts and CHP voters give a two word answer: Gursel Tekin.
Sitting in his central Istanbul office, the 44-year-old politician who became CHP's local chairman eighteen months ago remains modest: "We did what political parties are supposed to do: we went out and listened to people." Now AK Party strongholds, Istanbul's suburbs used to be CHP bastions, he adds. "Why did they stop giving us votes? Because we didn't respond to their demands. It is up to us now to persuade them [to come] back."
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Nicolas Birch specializes in Turkey, Iran and the Middle East.