I am not just talking about reaching different sections of the political spectrum. Young people, generally accused of being apolitical, are the generation that visibly leave their mark in the grounds where İnce holds his rallies. The terminology Muharrem İnce uses, the pledges he reels off and the “selfies” he finally takes and has taken enthuse the young people in the rally grounds. There are palpable clues at İnce’s rallies as to why the polls show 70% of young people not wanting to vote for Erdoğan and the metal-fatigued AKP.
The city centre was packed full in Sakarya, where conservative voters predominate and the AKP has in recent years attained an overwhelming majority. Local journalists observing the rally from the front rows were saying among themselves, “He has got a bigger crowd than Erdoğan.” The pronouncements by İnce that enthused the people of Sakarya most were about the sugar factory and the train that no longer comes from Haydarpaşa. After a banner reading, “We are electing the president for the people not the king for the palace” was displayed from a building overlooking the rally area, he made a quip that sums up his potential time as president: “You will not be the king’s people but kings among people.”
Muharrem İnce was frequently forced to halt the two rallies that he peppered with jokes reminiscent of Demirel due to people fainting. He guided ambulances from the rostrum to those unable to withstand the heat in the thirties. He did not forget to have an immediate dig at Erdoğan: “Of course, there were no ambulances before Erdoğan. We went to hospital on dog sleighs.”
Erdoğan’s coffee shop pledge was never off his lips, either: “Let those wanting free cake vote for Erdoğan, let those wanting work vote for me.” It remains unknown whether the impetus he has created with two weeks to go before the election will suffice to carry Muharrem İnce into the presidency. But, the interest he has created even in cities where conservative voters predominate will transform not just the CHP, but Turkish politics.