Turkiye local elections: Opposition claims victory in major setback to Erdogan

Turkiye local elections: Opposition claims victory in major setback to Erdogan

STANBUL: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan faced the biggest defeat in local elections from Istanbul and Ankara on Sunday.

Turkiye’s main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) has made major gains in the country’s local elections defeating Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Party) after more than two decades. Erdogan has called the election a ‘turning point’ and said that he accepts the people’s verdict.

With more than 90 percent of ballot boxes counted, Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) said he had defeated Erdogan’s ruling AK Party candidate by more than 1 million votes. With most of the votes counted, Imamoglu led by 10 percentage points in the mayoral race in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, while his Republican People’s Party (CHP) retained Ankara and gained 15 other mayoral seats in cities nationwide.

Speaking to his supporters in Ankara early on Monday shortly after the election results were announced, Erdogan said that the Turkish nation had used the ballot box to convey its messages to politicians. “Regardless of the results, the winner of this election is our democracy and national will,” Erdogan said.

Furthermore, while addressing from the balcony of the presidential palace, Erdogan acknowledged that his party had “lost altitude” across the country and said he would self-reflect and rectify any mistakes. “We will correct our mistakes and redress our shortcomings,” he said.

On the other hand, Imamoglu, a former businessman and key opposition leader in Turkiye while addressing his supporters said those who do not understand the nation’s message will eventually lose. “Tonight, 16 million Istanbul citizens sent a message to both our rivals and the president,” he added.

The CHP was also leading in Izmir, Turkey’s third city. In total, CHP prevailed in 36 of Turkey’s 81 provinces, state-run Anadolu reported, making inroads into many AK Party strongholds. Opposition supporters gathered in Istanbul to celebrate the results, with tens of thousands of people lighting torches and waving Turkish flags.

Sinan Ulgen, director of the Istanbul-based Edam think tank, told the Associated Press that “the surprising outcome” was the result of voters wanting to punish the ruling party over the state of the economy and described the elections as a “watershed for Imamoglu.”

“He will emerge as the natural candidate of the opposition for the next round of presidential elections,” Ulgen said.