“It’s the economy, idiot!” And not only. The Turks “decapitated” him Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party on Sunday in municipal and regional elections nearly a year after its presidential triumph, reinvigorating the opposition. The mayor of Istanbul Ekrem Imamoglou he now projects as a future opponent, as the “rival of awe” of the Turkish president.

Analysts note that financial pressuresincluding inflation which has reached almost 70%, and the slowdown in growth caused by an aggressive monetary tightening policy, they pushed voters this time to punish the ruling party (AKP). Analysts also commented that Erdogan and his party – who have ruled Turkey for more than two decades – fared worse than polls predicted because of Imamoglu’s appeal beyond the CHP’s secular base.

“The economy was the deciding factor”, noted Hakan Akbas, senior advisor at Albright Stonebridge Group. “The Turkish people demanded change and Imamoglu is now the de facto “nemesis” of President Erdogan.”

Erdogan insisted that the end of the second election cycle in less than a year will in itself give a “breather” to the economy.

On their part, in front of Istanbul’s municipality building, supporters of the Istanbul mayor said they wanted to see Imamoglu challenge Erdogan for the presidency in the future.

Further, the growing popular support for the Islamist New Providence Party, which has taken an even tougher stance than Erdogan against Israel over the Gaza conflict, has also eroded AKP support. The party took Sanliurfa province from the AKP, although the ruling party’s dominance in the southeast was seen as consolidated.

Imamoglu was re-elected despite the collapse of the opposition alliance that failed to oust Erdogan last year.

The pro-Kurdish party (DEM), which supported Imamoglu in 2019, this time he presented his own candidate in Istanbul. But many Kurds put aside their allegiance to the party and voted for Imamoglu again, the results suggest.

In the predominantly Kurdish southeastern region, the DEM confirmed its power, winning 10 provinces. After the previous elections, the state replaced pro-Kurdish mayors with state appointees.

In fact, Imamoglu’s CHP leads nationally with almost 1% of the vote, for the first time in 35 years, they showed the results. In the presidential elections, Erdogan had to face the Alevi, colorless Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

Mert Arslanalp, assistant professor of political science at Istanbul’s Bogazici University, commented that it was Erdogan’s “hardest electoral defeat” since he assumed national power in 2002.

“Imamoglu showed that he could overcome the deep socio-political divisions that define Turkey’s opposition electorate even without their institutional support,” he said. “This makes him the most politically competitive opponent of the Erdogan regime at the national level.”

In 2019, Imamoglu dealt Erdogan a major electoral blow when it first won Istanbul, ending 25 years of rule in the city by the AKP and its Islamist predecessors, including Erdogan’s own run as its mayor in the 1990s. The CHP also won Ankara that year.

The Turkish president returned in 2023 securing re-election and a parliamentary majority with his nationalist allies, despite the high cost of living.

RESULTS OF TURKISH ELECTIONS

CONSTANTINOPLE

  • EKREM IMAMOGLOU 51.08%
  • Murat Kurum. 39.58%

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ANCHOR

  • MANSOUR YAVAS 60.35%
  • TURGUT ALTINOK 31.69%

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TOTAL OF TURKEY

  • REP/. PEOPLE’S PARTY. (OZGYUR OZEL) 37.74%
  • JUSTICE AND DEVELOPMENT PARTY (ERDOGAN)35.5%
  • NEW PROSPERITY PARTY (ERMACAN) 6.19%
  • PEOPLE’S DEMOCRACY PARTY (PRO-KURDISH) 5.67%

Reuters-CBS