Erdogan suffers ‘worst’ election defeat; Imamoglu leads in Istanbul mayoral race

On April 1, 2024, Istanbul, Turkey, Ekrem Imamoglu, mayoral candidate of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Mayor of Istanbul, went in front of the Istanbul Municipal Government (IBB), Turkey Supporters spoke after the early results were released. —Reuters
  • The results show that the mayor of Istanbul CHP is far ahead.
  • The opposition has retained Ankara and claims other cities are exempt from the AKP’s influence.
  • A strained economy and a disaffected electorate hurt Erdogan.

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan admitted that the ruling coalition had “lost altitude” after suffering its biggest electoral blow in Sunday’s nationwide local vote that reaffirmed the opposition’s status as a political force.

Ekrem Imamoglu holds a 10-point lead in the mayoral race in Turkey’s largest city Istanbul after most of the votes have been counted, while his Republican People’s Party (CHP) retains Ankara and leads the country. The city received an additional 15 mayoral seats.

It marks the most serious defeat for Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in more than two decades in power and could signal a change in the country’s fractured political landscape. Erdogan called it a “turning point” in a speech after midnight.

Analysts say he and the AKP performed worse than polls predicted due to soaring inflation, voter dissatisfaction and Imamoglu’s appeal in Istanbul beyond the Republican People’s Party’s secular base.

“Those who do not understand the country’s message will ultimately lose,” Imamoglu, 53, told thousands of jubilant supporters late Sunday, some of whom chanted for Erdogan’s resignation.

“Tonight, 16 million citizens of Istanbul have sent a message to our rivals and to our president,” said the former businessman, who entered politics in 2008 and is now widely touted as a possible presidential challenger.

Erdogan, who also served as mayor of his native Istanbul in the 1990s, ran a hard-fought campaign ahead of municipal elections that analysts said were a measure of both his support and the opposition. Persistence.

Addressing a crowd gathered at the Justice and Development Party headquarters in the capital Ankara, Erdogan said his coalition had “lost altitude” across the country and would take steps to respond to the message from voters.

“If we make a mistake, we will correct it in the coming years,” he said. “If we’re missing something, we’ll get it done.”

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Elsewhere in Ankara, thousands of supporters earlier waved Turkish and party flags as they awaited a speech by Mansur Yavas, the re-elected Republican People’s Party mayor who savaged his AKP challenger. Once again, Erdogan was disappointed.

According to 99.98% of the ballot boxes opened in Istanbul, Europe’s largest city and the country’s economic engine, Imamoglu received 51.09% support, while Justice and Development Party challenger Murat, a former minister in Erdogan’s national government, Cullum’s approval rating is 39.59%.

Opinion polls predict fierce competition in Istanbul, with CHP likely to suffer nationwide.

However, partially official results reported by the state-run Anadolu news agency showed that the Justice and Development Party and its main allies gave up the mayoralty of 19 major cities including Bursa and Balikesir, the large cities in the industrial northwest, which may reflects the pressures faced by working-class people.

Results showed the CHP leading nationally with nearly 1 percent of the vote for the first time in 35 years.

Mert Arslanalp, assistant professor of political science at Bogazici University in Istanbul, said this was Erdogan’s “most serious electoral defeat” since he came to power in 2002.

“Imamoglu has proven that he can reach across the deep socio-political divisions of Turkey’s opposition voters even without their institutional support,” he said. “This makes him the Erdogan regime’s most politically competitive A powerful competitor.”

On April 1, 2024, Istanbul, Turkey, supporters of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) mayoral candidate and Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu attended the Istanbul Municipal Government (IBB) ) before celebrating preliminary election results. —Reuters
On April 1, 2024, Istanbul, Turkey, supporters of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) mayoral candidate and Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu attended the Istanbul Municipal Government (IBB) ) before celebrating preliminary election results. —Reuters

The Rise of Imamoglu

In 2019, Imamoglu dealt Erdogan a heavy electoral blow when he first won Istanbul, ending 25 years of rule over the city by the AKP and its Islamist predecessors, including Erdogan in 1990. experience as mayor during the 1990s. The same year, the CHP also won Ankara.

Despite a years-long cost-of-living crisis, the president fought back in 2023, working with nationalist allies to secure re-election and a parliamentary majority.

Analysts say economic pressures, including an inflation rate of nearly 70% and slowing growth from an aggressive monetary tightening regime, are prompting voters to punish the AKP this time around.

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“The economy is the decisive factor,” said Hakan Akbas, senior advisor at Albright Stonebridge Group. “The Turkish people are demanding change and Imamoglu is now El Default enemy of President Dogan.”

Erdogan said the end of the second election cycle in less than a year would itself bring relief to the economy.

Flag-waving supporters in front of Istanbul’s city government building said they wanted to see Imamoglu challenge Erdogan for the presidency in the future.

“We are very happy. I love him very much. We want to see him as president,” said Ezra, a homemaker.

The New Welfare Party has taken a tougher stance on Israel than Erdogan on the Gaza conflict. The rising public support for the New Welfare Party has also weakened the support of the Justice and Development Party. The party captured Sanliurfa from an AKP incumbent in the southeast.

Imamoglu was re-elected despite the collapse of the opposition coalition that failed to oust Erdogan last year.

The main pro-Kurdish party that supported Imamoglu in 2019 fielded its own democratic candidate in Istanbul this time. But results showed that many Kurds abandoned their party loyalty and voted for him again.

In the predominantly Kurdish southeast, the pro-democracy movement once again proved its strength, winning 10 provinces. Following previous elections, the state replaced pro-Kurdish mayors with state-appointed “trustees” over alleged links to militants.

Violence broke out earlier in the day, including a clash in the southeast where armed groups armed with guns, sticks and stones left one person dead and 11 injured. In another incident, a neighborhood official (or “mutair” candidate) was killed and four people were killed. He was injured during the fighting, Anadolu reported.

Several people were injured in other incidents on the eve of the vote in Bursa, with one person shot and two injured, the Demiroren news agency reported.

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By Ali Raza

I am a dedicated and skilled News Content Writer with a passion for delivering accurate and engaging stories to a diverse audience. With a solid background in journalism and a keen eye for detail, I bring a commitment to excellence and a deep understanding of the evolving media landscape.

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