April 19, 2024

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Turkey: Five things to know about Erdogan and his party's defeat

Turkey: Five things to know about Erdogan and his party's defeat

Sunday's municipal elections resulted in the worst defeat for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist conservative party, the AKP, which has ruled for 22 years.

Five things to know about this election that turned out to be a debacle for the presidential camp:

By personally engaging his party's candidates in the campaign for municipal elections, particularly in Istanbul, where he wanted to recapture at all costs, Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave the local elections a national dimension.

Rather than the defeat of the AKP candidate in the megacity, the uncharacteristic rogue guru, it was the defeat of the head of state that was widely commented on on Sunday.

His party failed to recapture key cities it lost five years ago, including Istanbul and the capital Ankara, but it also lost provincial capitals in conservative Anatolia, long taken.

Perk Esen, a political scientist at Sabanci University in Istanbul, spoke of “the biggest electoral defeat of Erdoğan's life”, noting that, in contrast, the CHP, the first opposition party, “recorded its best result since the 1977 elections”.

Conquer Istanbul

In addition to the possible fatigue of returning to the polls ten months after presidential and legislative elections in May 2023, the electorate, faced with a severe economic crisis, allowed the government: 67% inflation in one year and the screws of their currency. Daily life for many middle-class Turks is unbearable.

This dissatisfaction was reflected significantly in lower participation compared to 2019.

“There are very important changes happening in Turkey,” noted Ali Fayg Demir, a professor at Galatasaray University in Istanbul.

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“Whoever wins Istanbul wins Turkey,” President Erdogan will never say. Byzantium then Constantinople, a millennial megacity of 16 million people (almost a fifth of Turkey's population) is the jewel of a country with its prestigious past, its cultural capital located on the Bosphorus, but it is “treasure”. In the strict sense of the word, only 30% of Turkey's GDP.

“It is not easy to manage Istanbul, a city with more population than twenty countries in the European Union… It is a center, commercial, financial and cultural center. It's a country,” comments Aylin Anver Noy, a professor at Halik University in Istanbul, for whom “those who lead this city and prove themselves there” see their lives.

The decision of the head of state?

Mr. who was the mayor in 1994. Erdogan enjoyed it.

As Prime Minister since 2003 and then President since 2014, the Head of State who was re-elected in 2018 and 2023, his fifth municipal election, has braved many storms.

He escaped large protests in Istanbul in 2013, known as Gezi, which spread to 80 of the country's 81 provinces. Then a coup attempt in July 2016, followed by a wider purge.

Also, does the collapse of his party spell the end of the head of state? Analysts had already announced the twilight of “Reese” in 2019 after losing Istanbul and Ankara in municipal elections. However, he managed to stay in power and was re-elected president in May 2023 with 52% of the vote.

This time, he suggested that these elections would be his “last”.

Bayram Balgi, a researcher at CERI-Sciences Po in Paris, is convinced: “He was capable of surprising and deciding to end his life. A way to go out in style while staying true to his religious beliefs and his vision of Islam, where nothing on earth is permanent.”

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The mayor of Istanbul, reappointed as mayor, is more than ever the “boss” of the opposition: he has the status, the popularity, the media savvy and, above all, the hunger for success, even the presidency. This his opponents in his party do not fail to condemn him, accusing him of being more concerned with his career than the affairs of his city.

After all, Ekrem Imamloglu is in the sights of the authorities, who have sentenced him to two years and seven months in prison at the end of 2022 for “insulting” members of the Turkish High Electoral Commission.

The councilor appealed, but the sentence continues to threaten his political future and he was disqualified from the presidential race in May 2023.

Finally, 2028 is still a long way off.