President and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Chairman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held a rally on Sunday in İstanbul‘s Yenikapı Square, a tradition he observes one week before every election that serves as an indicator of current support for the party.
According to the state-run Anadolu news agency, 1.3 million people attended the rally, while the critical Birgün daily reported on Monday that at most there were only around 300,000 people in the square.
To boost attendance, the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality increased the frequency of public transportation before and after the AKP rally. Some 15,000 police officers were on duty around the square.
Erdoğan’s last rally, on April 8, 2017 in the same square, for a referendum introducing an executive presidency, drew more than 2 million voters, according to pro-government media outlets.
Before President Erdoğan spoke, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım addressed the crowd, while former Prime Minister Tansu Çiller, the only woman to hold the position in modern Turkish history, was among the attendees.
Çiller served between 1993 and 1996, a symbolic figure of 1990s Turkey, when a declining economy and a crackdown on the Kurdish political movement stoked tension among the public.
During his rally speech, Erdoğan mentioned investment in İstanbul starting during his term as mayor between 1994 and 1998. He responded to his rival Muharrem İnce’s remarks accusing him of corruption, saying if he had ever stolen money from the Treasury, there would not have been so much investment.
While defending his controversial palace in Ankara, constructed at an exorbitant cost and criticized the opposition, Erdoğan told an anecdote about Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying that when Putin visited the palace, looking around very carefully, he said, “This is the trademark of being a great country.”
On Sunday, the Democratic Peoples’ Party (HDP) also held a rally in the Bakırköy district of İstanbul at which 14 HDP members were detained by police.
Turkey will hold presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24.