Opposition wins in metropolises: Erdogan misses target in Turkey election

Opposition wins in metropolises

Erdogan misses target in Türkiye election

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The Turkish president is particularly aware of the rural parts of his country behind him. But he also wants to score points in the big cities in the local elections. Without success. The largest opposition party triumphs in Istanbul and Ankara.

The national conservative AKP party led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suffered significant defeats in the local elections in Turkey. According to preliminary unofficial results on Sunday, the largest opposition party CHP defended its mayoral posts in the metropolises of Istanbul and Ankara and conquered other cities. Meanwhile, Erdogan acknowledged the opposition’s historic victory in the local elections. With almost 99 percent of the country’s ballot boxes counted, Erdogan’s Islamic conservative AKP suffered its worst electoral debacle in two decades.

Ekrem Imamoglu apparently remains mayor of Istanbul.

Ekrem Imamoglu apparently remains mayor of Istanbul.

(Photo: picture alliance / ZUMAPRESS.com)

In Istanbul, incumbent Ekrem Imamoglu from the center-left CHP party won clearly with around 51 percent after almost all votes were counted, as the state news agency Anadolu reported that night. Imamoglu was able to build on his spectacular election victory in 2019 and strengthen his position as a possible future presidential candidate. His challenger, the former urban development minister Murat Kurum, only received around 40 percent of the vote. Istanbul has around 16 million inhabitants.

Erdogan thus missed his most important goal in the election, which was to win back the politically important metropolis of Istanbul with his Islamic-conservative AKP. According to unofficial partial results, the opposition was able to prevail in the mayoral elections in five of the country’s largest cities – particularly clearly in the capital Ankara. According to Anadolu, the incumbent mayor Mansur Yavas won there with a lead of more than 20 percent over his challenger. The final results are expected to be announced later this Monday.

AKP is apparently recording heavy losses

In addition to Izmir, CHP stronghold and third-largest city in the country, and Antalya in southern Turkey, there are also signs of a spectacular CHP victory in Anatolia. According to almost final results, the opposition party was also ahead in some provincial capitals long dominated by the AKP.

“We didn’t achieve the result we wanted and hoped for,” Erdogan admitted late on Sunday evening in Ankara. He will “respect the nation’s decision.” We will now practice self-criticism and correct deficiencies. But this is not the end, but a turning point for his alliance. The local elections are nevertheless seen as an important test of sentiment for Erdogan, who was re-elected last year after 20 years in power.

CHP supporters celebrate the success in the local elections. CHP supporters celebrate the success in the local elections.

CHP supporters celebrate the success in the local elections.

(Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AP)

According to preliminary unofficial results, his Islamic conservative AKP is now suffering heavy losses across the country. According to observers, voters have also punished Erdogan’s party for the high inflation rate and the economic situation. Opposition leader Özgür Özel spoke of a “historic result” that showed that voters wanted a new policy. “The voters voted to change the face of Turkey.”

Erdogan experiences biggest setback in Istanbul

Imamoglu said the results sent an important message to the world, where democracy is declining and authoritarian governments are on the rise. Imamoglu is seen as the opposition’s hope. He wrested power in Istanbul from Erdogan’s ruling AKP in 2019, ending 25 years of government by Islamic conservative parties. The AKP had the election canceled at the time. In the second round, Imamoglu won by an even larger margin – the success was considered the most serious setback in Erdogan’s political career. Erdogan’s political rise began in Istanbul when he was elected mayor in 1994. Erdogan was personally involved in the election campaign for Istanbul.

The opposition, which ran as an alliance in the 2023 parliamentary and presidential elections, entered the vote divided. Unlike the previous local elections in 2019, Imamoglu was unable to unite an opposition bloc behind him – and still won the election.

Dead and injured in clashes

Meanwhile, deadly clashes broke out in connection with the vote. One person was killed and eleven others were injured in the southeastern Turkish metropolis of Diyarbakir after a dispute over the election of a community leader escalated, state news agency Anadolu reported. A dispute over the election also escalated in Siirt province and one person was killed.

Around 61 million people in Turkey were called upon to elect mayors, local councilors and other local politicians. The election campaign was considered unfair – a large part of the media in Turkey is under direct or indirect government control. In addition to the high inflation of officially 67 percent, the main topics were earthquake prevention and infrastructure projects.

No major voting irregularities were initially reported. The DEM party said officials in the southeastern Turkish province of Sanliurfa tried to vote at more than one ballot box. This was prevented and documented. A delegation from the Council of Europe and the Left Party observed the elections on site. Thousands of volunteers were also supposed to ensure an orderly process. Shortly before the vote, the Oy ve Ötesi association said it had been able to recruit 30,000 people. That is more than in the local elections in 2019, but significantly less than in the parliamentary and presidential elections in 2023, for which 200,000 people registered as election workers.

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