Turkey’s Opposition Strikes Blow To Erdogan With Istanbul Mayoral Win

Last week, Turkey’s Republican People’s Party struck President Tayyip Erdogan with a harsh blow by winning control of Istanbul in its controversial re-run mayoral election. This victory for the opposition breaks the president’s “aura of invincibility” and delivers a message from Turkish voters who are unhappy over Erdogan’s increasing grip on power. Ekrem Imamoglu, a member of the Republican People’s Party brought in 54.21% of the votes in the recent election, a much larger margin of victory than his victory 3 months prior. The results from the previous election were invalidated after large scale protests erupted from Erdogan’s AK Party. The AK Party claimed that there had been widespread voting irregularities. According to Reuters, the Turkish government’s decision to re-run the vote was hit with harsh criticism from many western allies and caused major turmoil among the countries domestic opponents who claimed that their country’s democracy was facing a major threat. Last weekend, as the results were being announced, tens of thousands of Imamoglu supporters took to the streets to celebrate. There was a major cause for celebration, as Imamoglu beat Erdogan’s handpicked candidate by almost 800,000 votes. 

“In this city today, you have fixed democracy. Thank you Istanbul,” said Imamoglu to his supporters after declaring victory.  “We came to embrace everyone…We will build democracy in this city, we will build justice. In this beautiful city, I promise, we will build the future”. Many political analysts say that this election loss could eventually lead to a cabinet reshuffle in the nation’s capital as well as lead to changes in foreign policy. It could even lead to an early national election.  “The election process should close,” MHP party leader Devlet Bahceli said. “Talking of an early election would be among the worst things that can be done to our country”. But that being said, this election sets a strong precedent in the country’s goal of maintaining democracy while Erdogan’s grip over Turkey tightens. “The citizens of Istanbul elected a new mayor in a well-organized and transparent vote, albeit in tense circumstances”, delegation head Andrew Dawson said in a statement. “This re-run (election) was one to put an end to the dictatorship”, said Gulcan Demirkaya, a 48-year-old housewife in Istanbul’s AKP-leaning Kagithane district. “God willing, I would like to see him as the president in five years’ time. The one-man rule should come to an end”.

Immoglu’s recent victory in Istanbul is a great step in the right direction for Turkey. With President Erdogan gaining more and more power each day that he is in office, many fear that his sphere of influence will become so great that democracy itself in the nation of Turkey could be under threat. However, Imamoglu beating the establishment’s hand-picked candidate by almost 800,000 votes shows that the Turkish people will not let their democracy disappear without a fight and that their voices needed to be heard. The newly elected mayor stated in his victory speech that the Turkish people had “fixed democracy” in Turkey. They may not have completely fixed it, after all,  Erdogan is still in power at the national level. But Imamoglu’s victory is certainly a step in the right direction. 

President Erdogan has ruled over Turkey since early 2003 and has become the country’s most dominant politician since its founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk almost 100 years ago, according to CNN. That being said, the country’s recent financial crisis and economic recession have caused support of Erdogan to crumble, and his strong command over the government has left many voters extremely concerned.

What exactly happens next is uncertain. Many believe that the results of this election are going to usher in a new chapter in Turkish politics, as the country’s top 3 cities are now under the control of the opposition party. It is also likely that several cracks could emerge within Erdogan’s Party. This could potentially bring the country’s economic troubles to the forefront of the conversation. This election may have set a strong precedent for elections going forward, but the Turkish people are not out of the fight just yet. As long as Erdogan is still in power, his iron grip over the country will not soften and it is up to the Turkish people to decide what’s next for their nation.