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Turkish Opposition Stuns in Key Big Cities Local Election

Economics Plays a Bigger Role in Turkey’s Local Elections

The recent local elections in Turkey have shown a significant shift in the political landscape, with the opposition breaking through and winning mayoralties in major cities. Istanbul and Ankara were two key cities that President Erdogan vowed to take back. In Istanbul, he pulled out all the stops but Ekrem Imamoglu, from the main opposition party CHP, managed to win about 51%. This is significantly more than the AKP Istanbul candidate Murat Kurum at 39%.

In addition to Imamoglu’s victory in Istanbul and other opposition wins across the country point to a changing political scenario in Turkey, with Erdogan facing challenges to his long-standing rule. Besides the bigger role that economics played during the local elections versus the presidential elections last year, two minor parties were also a reason why the AKP did not do as well. The New Welfare Party, YRP, and the pro-Kurdish DEM Party did well and took several municipalities.

For example, the Kurdish voters (DEM party) which make up 10% of the voters in Istanbul voted 80% for the CHP candidate, Ekrem Immaoglu. The Islamist party, YRP, gained about 6% of all votes nationwide on a platform criticizing the current government over increasing trade with Israel. Thus, strategic voting by the DEM party voters in Istanbul specifically and votes lost from the AKP to the YRP party also played a role in the results. To summarize, we see see the following important points as an outcome of the elections:

  • The opposition’s success in major cities like Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir indicates a growing demand for change among the Turkish electorate. As noted a lot had to do with economics plus gains from two minor parties – YRP and DEM.
  • Imamoglu’s win in Istanbul, a city symbolic of political and economic importance in Turkey, has positioned him as a formidable figure in the opposition camp. We now view Imamoglu as the most serious challenger to Erdogan in the next presidential race.
  • IYI, the right-wing party that had split off from the MHP nationalist party did poorly with the leader on the verge of stepping down. They were part of the coalition that challenged Erdogan in the presidential race last year.
  • The MHP nationalist party also performed poorly in the local elections.

Longer term, Erdogan had aims to dominate the local government to solidify his power further, potentially paving the way for further constitutional reforms in order to run for another term. With the opposition winning this will present a more competitive political environment and potentially open up avenues for greater political pluralism in Turkey in the future. However, it would be a mistake to count Erdogan out as history has shown he is a very capable politician.