Turkish President Erdogan’s AK Party big loser in local elections: ‘Turning point for party’

Turkish President Erdogan’s AK Party big loser in local elections: ‘Turning point for party’
Turkish President Erdogan’s AK Party big loser in local elections: ‘Turning point for party’
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Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, the re-electable candidate of the opposition CHP party, received about half of the votes on Sunday. The CHP also performed better than expected in other provinces and cities. The party gained fifteen more provinces than in 2019, the AKP fifteen fewer. Because Bursa was also captured by the opposition, the five largest cities (in fact city-provinces) of Turkey are now in the hands of the CHP.

“Unfortunately, we did not achieve the results we had hoped for,” Erdogan said from his party’s AKP headquarters in the capital Ankara, to an unusually quiet crowd. He promised to respect the results.

On the map of the country, as seen on Turkish television channels on Sunday evening, almost the entire west of the country turned red, the CHP color, as well as the western south coast. According to the provisional results, the CHP won in 36 of the 81 provinces (including the city provinces), the AKP in 24.

The capital Ankara effortlessly remained in the hands of CHP mayor Mansur Yavas, with 58 percent of the votes. In 2019, he surprisingly captured the city province from the AKP. The highly secular Izmir also remained in CHP hands. Some observers had suggested that the AKP might pull off a surprise here, but that was not the case.

Istanbul Grand Prize

Voting took place in all 81 provinces and 922 municipalities of Turkey on Sunday. However, the city province of Istanbul is undeniably the main prize. Internationally, all eyes are also on Turkey’s largest city, a metropolis with 16 million inhabitants. The outcome there could also have consequences for national politics and for the position of President Erdogan.

With more than half of the votes counted, CHP Mayor Imamoglu had more than 50 percent of the vote on Sunday evening; his opponent from the AKP, Murat Kurum, at less than 41 percent. In the polls last week, the two main candidates did not differ much; Imamoglu then seemed to be in slightly better shape than Kurum.

Continuing his mayoralty offers Imamoglu the opportunity to position himself as Erdogan’s opponent in the 2028 presidential elections. Moreover, the excellent election result gives the CHP renewed self-confidence. The opposition party was mentally damaged after losing last year in the elections for parliament and presidency.

It is likely that Imamoglu will now emerge as the new party leader, at least informally. He gets along well with the official party chairman, Özgür Özel. He took over from the elderly Kemal Kiliçdaroglu last year, after he lost the presidential elections. Özel does not appear to have any presidential ambitions.

Surprising newcomer

The surprising newcomer of these elections is the New Prosperity Party (YRP), a conservative Islamist party. The party gains control of two provinces, Sanliurfa and Yozgat, both at the expense of the AKP. The YRP, founded in 2018, emerged from the Islamist movement that also spawned the AK Party in the 1990s.

As usual, the Kurdish-minded DEM party won the most votes in many Kurdish provinces in the southeast of the country, but overall scored worse than expected.

The Kurdish voters were also important to the CHP. In the 2019 local elections, they contributed strongly to the party’s victory in western metropolises such as Istanbul and Ankara. The Kurdish-oriented party (then called HDP) did not field its own candidates there, based on an informal ballot box agreement with the CHP.

This time, however, DEM itself had put forward candidates in all provinces and many cities. It seemed that this could be detrimental to Imamoglu’s chances, especially in Istanbul. That did not happen significantly. Many Kurdish voters probably strategically voted for Imamoglu. DEM may even have secretly pushed for this by putting forward a weak, not very well-known candidate in Istanbul.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Turkish President Erdogans Party big loser local elections Turning point party

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