Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suffered a setback after his party candidate lost in the Istanbul Mayor’s elections, results of which were declared on Monday. The main opposition party candidate Ekrem Imamoglu defeated former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, a close aide of Erdogan, in the elections.
The poll outcome ends 25 years of AK Parti (AKP) rule in Istanbul. What really muddied waters was the cancellation of the previous election outcome, in which the Opposition won. While Erdogan himself has said in the past “whoever wins Istanbul, wins Turkey”, this defeat is the first chink in his reign as he has ruled the country since 2003.
The Opposition, which appeared tired and not ready for a fight, has been re-energised after the win. Local neighbourhoods in Istanbul like Besiktas, which sits by the famous Bosporus, erupted in joy, as the election results started pouring in.
While this is a ray of hope for the beleaguered opposition, it is too early to write an epitaph for Erdogan, who has positioned himself as the most powerful leader since Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the modern Turkish republic.
Imamoglu will face a local council, which is still controlled by Erdogan’s party, and he will have to navigate the politics to become an effective elected official.
And, national elections are not scheduled until 2023. Though there will be calls for an early election, it will be a test of Erdogan’s political mind to face an Opposition which is on a rebound.