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Opposition in Turkey Stuns Erdogan With Victory in Local Elections

turkey prime minister recep tayiip erdogan elections
Turkey’s Prime Minister is facing a precarious situation with his majority in jeopardy following tightly contested municipal elections against opposition parties. Photo credit: Mikhail Klimentyev / CC BY 4.0

Turkey’s main opposition party has claimed huge election victories in the main cities of Istanbul and Ankara. The results are a significant blow for Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had hoped to regain control of the cities less than a year after he claimed a third term as President.

He led the campaign to win in Istanbul, where he grew up and became mayor. However, Ekrem Imamoglu, who first won the city in 2019, scored a second victory for the secular opposition CHP.

Erdogan had vowed for a new era in Turkey’s megacity of almost sixteen million people, but the incumbent mayor of Istanbul secured more than fifty percent of the vote, defeating the President’s AK Party candidate by more than eleven points and almost one million votes.

All international observers and analysts have had their eyes peeled on the election, and sure enough, it has overturned over a decade of uncontested majority for the current Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In the capital of Ankara, opposition Mayor Mansur Yavas was so far ahead of his rival at 60 percent that he declared victory when less than half the votes were in. Supporters blocked all the main roads in the city, waving flags and sounding their car horns.

Significantly, the CHP also seized control of Turkey’s fourth-largest city of Bursa, as well as Balikesir in the northwest, and retained control of Izmir, Adana, and the resort of Antalya.

President Erdogan, 70, acknowledged the election had not gone as he had hoped, but he told supporters in Ankara it would mark “not an end for us but rather a turning point.”

Ekrem İmamoğlu, who has been mayor of the city since 2019 and has been reconfirmed, has declared himself “very pleased” with the election results. In an official statement, he claimed the election brings the opposition to the forefront and shows that, through his past term in the capital, the party has “obtained the trust of our citizens and their belief in us.”

Local elections in Turkey show a sway in public opinion

In the 2019 municipal elections, İmamoğlu won through a solid coalition made up of six main Turkish parties. That coalition fell apart after last year’s presidential election confirmed Erdogan’s position.

Now, this comes as a double victory for İmamoğlu to be winning the municipal election even while running with his party alone. For Erdogan’s AKP, high hopes of overturning the 2019 victory of the opposition in Istanbul have been crushed.

The ruling party has been unable to shake off the post-pandemic economic crisis that caused rates of inflation to spike to 67 percent and interest rates to get as high as 50 percent despite Erdogan’s diplomatic and global efforts for influence.

An eventful and heartfelt municipal election in Turkey

This round of elections has been rife with anomalies. These include power cuts in some polling stations during the count, although those same polling stations did not deliver a win for the Prime Minister’s party.

Supporters of various parties have been involved in major clashes at the stations where police had to intervene, and Kurdish voters are currently protesting in support of their party leaders in the capital.

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