by Zeynep Cermen
ISTANBUL, June 12 (Xinhua) -- The two main candidates running for the office of Istanbul mayor have changed to a full-gear mode as they unveiled their projects and made promises to voters ahead of a televised debate slated for Sunday night.
Focusing mostly on poverty, one of the most critical issues facing the metropolis of 16 million, the candidate of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Ekrem Imamoglu and his rival Binali Yildirim from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have spent days to explain how they are going to cope with it.
Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, Imamoglu shared his solutions to the problems facing the largest city of Turkey, which include poverty, unequal distribution of wealth and resources, unemployment, and sensitive social issues like migration and child abuse.
Imamoglu vowed to create 2,500 Turkish liras (about 430 U.S. dollars) in annual contribution to household budgets by offering discounts in food, transportation, health and education.
"In this city, there are 475,000 households whose incomes are below the poverty line," Imamoglu said, vowing to increase aid to them as much as five times and create a decent living condition for all.
"We will also encourage urban agriculture by establishing city farms in open areas," he said, adding several husbandry zones will be created as well so as to provide fresh meats at affordable prices.
Imamoglu served as Istanbul mayor for less than one month before he was disqualified by the country's Supreme Election Board on May 6 over AKP's allegations of irregularities in local election held on March 31, in which the CHP candidate beat AKP's Yildirim by a slim margin.
The Supreme Election Board annulled the result and called for a fresh election on June 23.
At the Tuesday press conference, Imamoglu also pledged to find solutions to the issue of Syrian migrants, whose number has exceeded 500,000, by establishing a migration unit under the municipality.
"We will mostly focus on children and women and will work hard to solve their most acute problems, such as accommodation, education and health," he said, adding he will also raise the issue in the international arena to facilitate their return to their hometowns.
In addition, he promised efforts against all kind of child abuses and drug addiction.
Mindful of the young population, Imamoglu pledged more support in the fields of culture, art and sport for more than two million young Istanbulites by means of providing scholarships and job opportunities.
Yildirim, meanwhile, pledged incentives to young entrepreneurs and marrying couples as well as free Internet usage for all young people.
"We will provide 100,000 liras in support to my young entrepreneur brothers and sisters," the former prime minister tweeted. "The enterprise is from you, the capital is from us."
He also offered 8,000 liras in support of couples to be married, 10-GB free Internet usage data per month for the youth and promised to generate job opportunities for about 50,000 young people.
In another tweet, Yildirim said he would provide further assistance to female entrepreneurs who return to the countryside from the city center for farming and husbandry.
Instead of holding campaign rallies, Yildirim has been meeting with people face-to-face in small groups, while Imamoglu has been holding big gatherings in all the districts of the city.
The duo are expected to do their best to drive home their points on the night of June 16 in the first televised debate the country ever has in nearly two decades.
Istanbulites are looking forward to the debate, as most consider it as a practice of democracy.
"Turkey is going back to its old dynamic," said Zerrin Goler, a retired woman. "This perception of they embracing each other and paying respect to each other makes us happy."