Erdogan faces pressure after Istanbul defeat

Erdogan faces pressure after Istanbul defeat

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saw his candidate lose more heavily than before in Istanbul’s mayoral election rerun, sparking recriminations from his party and his wider circle of supporters.

Voter turnout rose in the repeat election on Sunday suggesting a desertion from Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The AKP leadership met in Ankara on Monday to discuss the Istanbul setback.

AK Party deputy chairmen Ali İhsan Yavuz and Mahir Ünal made presentations on the election process and result. The AKP’s Ömer Çelik said the party would continue to evaluate the message given by the people in Istanbul.

“Earthquake at the ballot box,” read the headline on Karar, which was founded three years ago by pro-AKP journalists.

“The margin is a reaction against the unfairness and the recklessness of doing politics with the disproportional state power, as much as it is the electorate’s loyalty to democracy and law,” wrote Mustafa Karaalioglu in Karar. “The electorate rose against those who did not understand what it had told them. The ballot box this time did not talk, but shouted.”

Results suggest Ekrem Imamoglu won 54 per cent of the vote while Erdogan’s candidate, Binali Yildirim, the former prime minister, received 45-per-cent support.

Imamoglu won by more than 800,000 votes, compared with his tiny margin of 13,000 in the original ballot. Turnout rose marginally to 84 per cent. It is Erdogan’s first electoral defeat, after dominating Turkish 21st-century politics.

The AKP has dominated Istanbul, Erdogan’s hometown, for 25 years, since he became mayor in 1994.

A former AKP president, Abdullah Gul, and a former finance minister, Ali Babacan, have now moved to form a breakaway party.

“The big question is: will he ultimately stick to the ultranationalist alliance and continue the paranoid security state or reverse course and attempt at reform?” said Asli Aydintasbas of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“The victory of democracy is more important than the victory of any candidate,” Çelik said.

Çelik called on citizens not to heed provocations and talk of polarisation.

He said the AKP would return to stability as no more elections were scheduled soon.

The AK Party had a tradition of rejuvenating the party with a new team of experienced elders and younger members when necessary, he claimed. Erdogan has used the term “mental fatigue” and said there needed to be a government shakeup.

As part of the rejuvenation efforts, a number of influential AKP members and mayors have resigned in recent months as Erdogan tries to revive his electoral magic.


Has Recep Tayyip Erdogan lost his magic electoral touch? Picture credit: Wikimedia

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