Turkish Local Elections: Opposition Stuns Erdogan with Historic Victory

Turkey’s main opposition party has claimed big 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.

But Ekrem Imamoglu, who first won the city in 2019, scored a second victory for the secular opposition CHP.

Erdogan had vowed a new era in Turkey’s megacity of almost 16 million people, but the incumbent mayor of Istanbul secured more than 50% of the vote, defeating the president’s AK Party candidate by more than 11 points and almost one million votes.

This was also the first time since Erdogan came to power 21 years ago that his party was defeated across the country at the ballot box.

In the capital Ankara, opposition mayor Mansur Yavas was so far ahead of his rival on 60% 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-biggest city Bursa and Balikesir in the north-west, and retained control of Izmir, Adana and the resort of Antalya.

The 70-year-old President 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”.

He has always relied on the “people’s will” for his authority and he told supporters he would respect the electorate now too.

Under Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s presidency has amassed sweeping powers, replacing the prime minister. But in the cities, directly elected mayors still have considerable influence.

During the election campaign, Erdogan said this would be his last, because his presidential term ends in 2028.

But critics believed that victory would have encouraged him to revise the constitution so he could stand again. After such a dramatic defeat that is looking very unlikely.

Political scientist Berk Esen said the opposition CHP had delivered the “biggest election defeat of Erdogan’s career” and came up with its best results since 1977.

The outcome was a big success for the chairman of the CHP, Ozgur Ozel, who praised voters for deciding to change the face of Turkey in a historic vote: “They want to open the door to a new political climate in our country.”

Crowds in Istanbul gathered outside the town hall in Sarachane, one of Istanbul’s oldest districts.

They waved Turkish flags and banners showing Ekrem Imamoglu’s picture alongside Turkey’s founding father Kemal Ataturk, whose poster was draped down the walls of the local authority building.

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Comfort Samuel

I work with TV360 Nigeria, as a broadcast journalist, producer and reporter. I'm so passionate on what I do.

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