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Significant victory of the opposition in municipal elections In Turkey weakened Erdogan


In Sunday's local elections, the main opposition party in Turkey managed to maintain its control over key cities and achieved significant gains in other areas. This outcome is a significant blow to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who aimed to regain control of these urban areas.


According to the state-run Anadolu Agency, incumbent Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu of the Republican People's Party, or CHP, is leading significantly in Turkey's largest city and economic hub, with more than 90% of ballot boxes counted. The results indicated that Mansur Yavas, the mayor of the capital, Ankara, retained his seat with an impressive 25-point difference over his challenger.


The CHP emerged victorious in 36 out of Turkey's 81 provinces.

This represents a significant breakthrough for the party, as they made gains in several previously considered strongholds of Erdogan's party. The party received 37% of the votes nationwide, while the president's party secured 36%. This election result is the CHP's most significant win since Erdogan assumed power twenty years ago.


In a speech delivered from the balcony of the presidential palace, Erdogan openly acknowledged the electoral setback, acknowledging that his party had experienced a decline in support throughout Turkey. He stated that the people conveyed a clear message that his party would carefully examine the situation by engaging in honest self-reflection.


"Regrettably, despite our success in the May 28 elections, the outcome of the local election test did not meet our expectations," Erdogan remarked. "We acknowledge our errors and are committed to addressing our weaknesses."


The leader has made a firm commitment to continuing to implement the economic program introduced last year, designed to address the inflation issue.


The vote was perceived as a significant indicator of Erdogan's popularity, as he aimed to regain control of crucial urban areas that he had previously lost to the opposition in elections half a decade ago. 2019, the CHP's triumph in Ankara and Istanbul significantly affected Erdogan's once unassailable image.


With its population of 16 million, Istanbul served as a significant battleground for the 70-year-old Turkish president. It holds great significance for him as it is his birthplace, where he grew up, and where he embarked on his political journey as mayor in 1994.


The outcome provided a much-needed morale boost for the opposition, disheartened and fragmented following its loss to Erdogan and his ruling AKP in the previous year's presidential and parliamentary elections.


"The voters have made a clear statement by establishing a new political order in Turkey," Ozgur Ozel said, addressing a crowd of enthusiastic supporters. Today, the voters have made a significant decision in Turkey, signalling a shift towards a new political era in our country.


In the meantime, many people congregated outside Ankara City Hall to commemorate Yavas' triumph. Supporters chanted, expressing their pride in Ankara.


Sinan Ulgen, director of the Istanbul-based Edam think tank, highlighted the unexpected outcome, attributing it to voters' desire to hold the ruling party accountable for their significant economic challenges. The current state of inflation in Turkey has caused significant financial strain for numerous households, making it increasingly challenging to afford essential goods.


According to Ulgen, many AKP supporters chose not to participate in the elections or decided to vote for alternative parties.

"Turnout was significantly lower compared to previous elections," he remarked. There were notable shifts in the vote across different political parties, a departure from what typically occurs in national elections where more muscular ideological attachments tend to prevail. The economy emerged as the dominant factor this time, overshadowing identity.


A total of 61 million individuals, including over a million who were voting for the first time, had the opportunity to participate in the elections for metropolitan municipalities, town and district mayorships, and neighbourhood administrations.


The voter turnout this year, as reported by the state-run Anadolu Agency, was approximately 76%, a decrease from the 87% recorded in the previous year.


With 594,000 security personnel deployed nationwide, guaranteeing a seamless voting process was the primary objective. However, there was a tragic incident in the city of Diyarbakir where a disagreement regarding the election of a neighbourhood administrator escalated into violence.


According to the state-run Anadolu Agency, one person lost their life, and 11 others sustained injuries. Additionally, there were reports of injuries during the clashes in the neighbouring province of Sanliurfa.


"Based on the data we have acquired, it appears that the trust and faith our citizens have placed in us has proven fruitful," said Imamoglu.


According to Anadolu, Imamoglu secured 50.6% of the votes in Istanbul, while Murat Kurum, a former urbanisation and environment minister and AKP candidate, received 40.5%. Opinion polls indicated a tight competition between the two candidates.


Imamoglu, a prominent figure considered a potential future contender against Erdogan, ran independently without the backing of certain parties that had previously supported him during his victorious campaign in 2019. The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Equality and Democracy Party and the nationalist IYI Party have put forward their candidates in the race.

Under the leadership of CHP, the six-party opposition alliance fell apart when it could not remove Erdogan from power in the previous election. Despite the economic crisis and the government's initial mishandling of the devastating earthquake that claimed over 53,000 lives, the alliance failed to make the most of these opportunities.


According to Ulgen, the outcome has positioned Imamoglu as a potential opposition leader who could challenge Erdogan for the presidency in 2028.


"This outcome has been a significant turning point for Imamoglu," he remarked. He will likely be seen as the frontrunner for the upcoming presidential elections, representing the opposition.

The emergence of a new religious-conservative party, the New Welfare Party (YRP), has garnered support from disillusioned AKP supporters dissatisfied with the government's economic policies.


In the southeastern region of Turkey, which has a predominantly Kurdish population, the DEM Party seemed poised to secure victories in several municipalities. However, uncertainty surrounds whether they will be permitted to maintain control over these municipalities.


In previous years, the government under Erdogan's leadership has taken action against elected pro-Kurdish mayors, accusing them of having ties to Kurdish militants. As a result, these mayors were removed from office and replaced with trustees appointed by the state.


According to political analysts, a significant performance by Erdogan's party would have strengthened his determination to introduce a new constitution. This constitution would align with his conservative principles and potentially enable him to extend his rule beyond 2028 when his current term concludes.


With over two decades of leadership in Turkey, Erdogan has served as prime minister since 2003 and president since 2014. He has been vocal about his support for a new constitution that prioritises family values.

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