In his 16 years of continuous leadership, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with his ruling Justice and Development party, also known as AK Parti in Turkish, has now lost control of Ankara and is on the track to lose Istanbul as well in the local Turkish elections. It was concluded via unofficial data, published by the state-run Anadolu Agency on Monday.
Voting in 30 cities, 51 municipal capitals and 922 districts across the country took place on Sunday and it has been widely seen as a referendum on Erdogan’s handling of Turkey’s economic crisis, as the nation of 81 million people faced a recession for the first time during his tenure. This was because Lira, Turkey’s currency, lost value, leading to an economic recession in the last quarter of 2018.
The AKP, with its roots in political Islam, has won every election since 2002. Erdogan campaigned for around 100 rallies for the Turkish elections and said that the poll was about the “survival” of the country and his party. Behlul Ozkan, an associate professor at Marmara University in response to Erdogan’s defeat in the elections, said that his socially conservative and construction-driven policies no longer resonated in Turkey. He added, “Political Islam’s quarter-century old hegemony in Turkey’s two largest cities is over.”
As per the unofficial data, the loss of AKP’s Mehmet Ozhaseki to the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) mayoral candidate, Mansur Yavas, with a percentage of about 47:51 for the state of Ankara has sent shockwaves throughout the country. The AKP said that if confirmed, it would then challenge the result in Istanbul and the eastern province of Igdir.
The third largest city, Izmir, went to the CHP. The CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu claimed, “The people have voted in favour of democracy. They have chosen democracy.”
Anadolu’s unofficial data for the mayoral candidature of Istanbul showed that the Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) candidate Ekrem Imamoglu won the race with 48.8 percent of the vote, while the AK Party candidate Binali Yildirim got 48.5 percent.
Ozkan stated that Erdogan and his party were not able to procure votes from the middle-income earners who believed that the economy, education, and urban administration are not run well in his rule.
Commenting on the results in a speech on Sunday, Erdogan looked ahead to the national elections in 2023 and said, “We have a long period ahead where we will carry out economic reforms without compromising on the rules of the free-market economy. If there are any shortcomings, it is our duty to correct them”.
Through the unofficial data, it seems that the conservative voters in the local Turkish elections punished Erdogan for an economic crisis and the race is particularly tight, with both AK Party and the CHP claiming victory in Istanbul. However, both the parties are eagerly waiting for the final results.