Turkish opposition hands Erdogan biggest election defeat


April 1, 2024
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April 1, 2024

Turkey’s opposition to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won power in major cities including Ankara and Istanbul in municipal elections this weekend. Erdogan speaks of a ‘turning point’ for his party.

In Turkey, the opposition emerged as a political force against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in local elections across the country this weekend. The secular and social democratic opposition party CHP wins in most provinces, and in Istanbul and Ankara.

In Istanbul, the country’s largest city in terms of population, a neck-and-neck race was predicted. But current mayor Ekrem Imamoglu wins by a margin of 10 percentage points. It makes him more than ever Erdogan’s main political rival and the biggest challenger to succeed the 70-year-old president within four years.

In addition to Istanbul and the capital Ankara, the opposition would take control of another 15 cities elsewhere in the country. For Erdogan’s AKP, which threw its full weight into the campaign, it is the biggest election defeat since he came to power nationally in 2002.


Erdogan acknowledged his party’s defeat after midnight and spoke of a “turning point” for his camp: “Unfortunately, we did not achieve the results we had hoped for,” he said from the AKP seat in Ankara.

He indicated that he accepted the results of the election, which has not always happened elsewhere in the world – Donald Trump in the US and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil – in recent years.

“We will certainly respect the decision of our nation,” Erdogan said. “We will avoid being stubborn, going against the national will and questioning the power of the nation,” the president said, adding that democracy has won.

“We will comprehensively evaluate the results of the elections in the bodies of our party and courageously formulate self-criticism.”

Presidential elections

The municipal elections were a test for Erdogan and his party, ten months after he was elected for a third term as president. Even then it became apparent that dissatisfaction with the galloping inflation and the weak economy would become his weak flank. He is no longer a candidate to succeed himself in 2028.

Imamoglu then has good cards, believes Mert Arslanalp, an academic at Turkey’s Bogazici University. ‘Imamoglu showed that he is able to transcend the socio-political fault lines within the opposition, without having institutional support to do so. That makes him the most competitive political rival for Erdogan’s regime,” he told Bloomberg news agency.

The article is in Dutch

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