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Turkish opposition surges in local polls blow to Erdogan

With nearly 100% of ballot boxes counted, Turkey’s opposition CHP secured election victories in Istanbul and Ankara. The result would be a major setback for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP party.

Turkey’s local elections on Sunday dealt a major blow to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu from the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) comfortably reelected. 

It wasn’t the only local election night success for the CHP, as it also claimed victories in the capital Ankara, in Turkey’s third-largest city Izmir, as well as in the southern city of Antalya. 

The CHP secured the highest number of mayoral seats in 81 cities at the expense of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), according to unofficial preliminary results shared by state news agency Anadolu.

“Tonight, 16 million Istanbul citizens sent a message to both our rivals and the president,” the incumbent mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu told supporters late on Sunday. “Thank you Istanbul,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Millions of Turks cast their vote to elect mayors and administrators in local elections on Sunday. The vote gauged Erdogan’s popularity as his ruling party tries to win back key cities. 

The main battleground for the Turkish president was Istanbul, where he was born and raised and where he began his political career as mayor in 1994.

“The biggest election defeat of Erdogan’s career”, Berk Esen, a political scientist at Sabanci University, told the AFP news agency.

Sunday’s vote saw the opposition win or retain power in Istanbul and other key cities


Opposition upbeat after key victories

“We are in first position with a lead of more than a million votes … We have won the election,” Imamoglu told reporters at the CHP’s Istanbul headquarters.

His rival, Murat Kurum from the AKP, had around 40%, according to Anadolu Agency.

Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavas also retained his seat with a stunning 25-point difference over his AKP challenger, the results indicated. Yavas declared victory, saying, “the elections are over, we will continue to serve Ankara.”

The CHP was also ahead in Turkey’s third-largest city, Izmir and looked to be leading in 36 of the country’s 81 provinces, according to the preliminary results reported by state broadcaster TRT.

Mansur Yavas was also reelected as mayor of the capital, Ankara

The CHP appeared to be in the lead with 37.32% of the vote across the country, according to Anadolu Agency. The AKP had 35.78%, it said. 

This means the CHP led nationwide by almost 1% of the votes, a first in 35 years.

Erdogan says ‘self-criticism’ required

Speaking to supporters at his party headquarters in Ankara, Edrogan admitted the outcome was a setback for his AK party.

“Unfortunately, we were unable to achieve the result we desired and hoped for in the local election test,” Erdogan said.

“We will honestly assess the results of the elections … and courageously exercise self-criticism,” the 70-year-old added.

Some 61 million people, including more than a million first-time voters, were eligible to cast ballots in the local government elections.

Erdogan expressed disappointment with the results in a speech outside party HQ in Ankara

The election came amid high inflation and a massive devaluation of the lira, which has affected the cost of living for many Turks.

“When Turkish people vote, the situation in the kitchen or on their plate changes the voting trend,” Ali Faik Demir, a political scientist at Galatasaray University, told AFP.

Anadolu Agency reported that voter turnout was around 76%.

Repeat of 2019 vote

After CHP won in Istanbul and Ankara in 2019, the ruling AKP demanded a rerun of the Istanbul vote, claiming there had been irregularities. The CHP also managed to win the rerun in the key battleground city.

Earlier this month, Erdogan — who himself was mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1998 — said the municipal elections would be his last. He has been in power since 2003 when he was elected prime minister and then president in 2014.

In 2017, a constitutional change abolished the office of prime minister, giving Erdogan full executive power.

In May last year, Erdogan fell short of a majority of votes in the first round of presidential elections. In 2014 and 2018, he won outright and there was no runoff vote.

Source: Dw

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