Istanbul loss a big blow to Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) is facing a humiliating defeat in the Istanbul mayoral poll rerun as preliminary official results on Monday showed that the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has secured 54.21% of votes, reports say.

CHP workers and supporters started the victory celebration on Sunday by singing, dancing, waving flags, honking car horns and partying late into the night. It was a historic win that ended the Islamic conservatives’ 25-year grip on Istanbul.

CHP’s candidate Ekrem Imamoglu, above, secured 4,741,868 votes while AKP’s Binali Yildirim got only 3,935,453 votes or 44.99%, said Sadi Guven, head of the Supreme Election Council.

The poll panel has set Wednesday as the deadline for political parties to appeal the initial results. The final results will be announced later.

Sunday’s voter turnout was 84.5% with 8.74 million valid votes.

Imamoglu had already won the mayoral election on March 31, defeating Yildirim by nearly 14,000 votes. But the poll panel annulled the vote on May 6 after Erdogan’s party alleged irregularities and ordered a re-run on June 23. 

On Sunday, Imamoglu increased his lead to more than 80,000 votes.

Many revellers felt the poll rerun was a wrong decision but expressed joy over Imamoglu’s huge victory margin.

Since the media has been muzzled by Ankara for some time, newspapers gave subdued headlines like ‘Istanbul has voted’, ‘Democracy Wins’ and ‘İmamoglu declared winner’.

Addressing a huge rally late on Sunday, Imamoglu said love has won and the victory was not of a single group or party, but the whole of Istanbul and Turkey.

Imamoglu wants to meet Erdogan and discuss earthquake preparedness, subway construction and refugee problem in Istanbul.

Erdogan conceded defeat along with Yildirim and congratulated Imamoglu.

For Erdogan, his party’s defeat in Istanbul was painful as the home city had shaped his political career by making him mayor 25 years ago.

The Istanbul poll result may prompt him to reshuffle the cabinet and even advance the 2023 national elections.

He may focus more on reining in inflation, creating jobs and pushing growth.

Erdogan’s crackdown on civil society following the failed coup in 2016 had earned him enemies in Istanbul and Ankara.

His party lost Ankara mayoral vote three months ago for the first time since the party’s founding in 2001.

The defeats in Istanbul and Ankara send a blunt message to Erdogan that people are not happy with his authoritarian style of leadership.