Municipal elections in Turkey: Opposition on track for victory in Istanbul and Ankara

The polls favored the opposition mayors of Istanbul and the capital, Ankara, who are facing an economic crisis that is hitting families.

In 33% of ballot boxes counted at 8:00pm local time (5:00pm GMT), Istanbul's outgoing CHP (Social Democrat) Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu won 49.7% of the vote, against 41.5%. The ruling party AKP Also in Ankara, CHP Mayor Mansur Yavas was re-elected with 57.1% of the vote and 35.6% of the vote after 15.4% of the ballot boxes were counted.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been in power for more than two decades, has thrown his full weight into the campaign, especially in Istanbul, the country's economic and cultural capital, where he was mayor in the 1990s and became the opposition in 2019.

But his commitment seems insufficient, given the first results.

As the head of the country's largest city, Mr. A re-election of Imamoglu would put him in the race for the 2028 presidential election.

The outgoing mayor preferred to be cautious: “We are pleased with the picture in front of us, but we are waiting for the full results,” Mr. Imamoglu told reporters on Sunday evening.

In the political capital Ankara, another CHP heavyweight, Mansur Yavas, is heading for a comfortable re-election with 56.3% of the vote with 12.4% of ballot boxes counted. In the country's third city, Izmir (West) – a stronghold of the Social Democratic Party – its candidate is also leading by a wide margin.

“We need a balance at least at the local level against the government,” Serhan Solak, a 56-year-old Ankara resident who came to vote for Mansur Yavas, told AFP on Sunday morning.

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Elsewhere in the country, AKP candidates are leading the race in President Erdogan's strongholds of Anatolia (Konya, Kayseri, Erzurum) and the Black Sea (Rise, Trabzon) as expected. The Kurdish DEM party won major cities in the southeast, including Diyarbakır, the unofficial capital of Turkey's Kurds, with a Kurdish majority.

– 2028 War –

A polling station in Istanbul, Sunday March 31, 2024

©AFP

Throughout the campaign, President Erdogan held two or three meetings a day, benefiting from unlimited time off.

A new defeat for his Justice and Development Party (AKP, Islamic-conservative) in Istanbul will have serious consequences for the head of state.

Adjacent to the city, he re-held the 2019 municipal elections there, and in a second poll organized three months later, Mr. Imamoglu saw himself win again, suffering his worst electoral setback since coming to power as prime minister in 2003.

The mayor of Istanbul, a subscriber to the platform of Turks' favorite political figures, continues to cast himself as a direct rival to the head of state, whom he portrays as a “part-time mayor” who has swallowed him up with his nationalistic ambitions. .

A win on Sunday evening will strengthen his aura.

Istanbul's opposition mayor Ekrem Imamoglu came to vote with his wife and two sons.

©AFP

The next presidential race could be played out between two men who share common Black Sea origins and the same passion for football.

The 70-year-old head of state confirmed in early March that the elections would be his “last”, suggesting he would leave power in 2028.

Unless the constitution is revised to provide for fresh nomination.

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