Turkish election: Opposition claims victory in Istanbul and Ankara

  • By Paul Kirby & Kagil Kasaboglu
  • in London and Istanbul

image source, REUTERS/Umit Bektas

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As the scale of the victory became clear, opposition supporters celebrated in Istanbul and other cities

Turkey's main opposition party has announced wins in elections in Istanbul and Ankara.

Ekrem Imamoglu, who became Istanbul's first opposition mayor in 2019, said, “The film makes us very happy.”

A year after his third term as president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan became mayor with his goal of winning back the city where he grew up.

But the night belonged to the main opposition as it ended triumphantly.

Notably, the secular CHP was on course to win several major cities in Turkey, including Izmir and the resort towns of Bursa, Adana and Antalya.

The decision is a significant blow to the man who has led Turkey for the past 21 years. It was the first time since he came to power that his AK Party was defeated at the ballot box across the country.

President Erdogan, 70, admitted the election did not go as they had hoped, but he told supporters in Ankara that it “will not be an end for us, but a turning point”.

He led his party's election campaign in Istanbul, ensuring a new era in Turkey's largest city.

But with 85% of votes counted in the city, Mr Imamoglu was more than 10 points ahead of his rival, Mr Erdogan's AK Party.

In the capital Ankara, his colleague in the secular opposition CHP, Mansur Yavas, was ahead of his rival with 59% of the vote. He declared victory when less than half the votes were cast. Supporters blocked all major roads in the city and waved. waving flags and honking their car horns.

image source, Dolka Bosoglu/EPA-EFE

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Ekrem Imamoglu won as the opposition in Istanbul

Party leader Ozgur Ozel praised voters for deciding to change the face of Turkey in a historic referendum: “They want to open the door to a new political environment in our country.”

People in Istanbul, home to about 16 million people, gathered outside a main city hall. They waved Turkish flags and banners showing a picture of Mr Imamoglu alongside Turkey's founding father Kemal Atatürk, whose poster was draped over the walls of the local authority building.

“I can say that the trust and confidence our citizens have placed in us has been rewarded,” Mr Imamoglu said.

He and Mansoor Yawas are seen as potential candidates for the 2028 presidential race.

“Everything will be better,” chanted Imamoglu supporters as they danced to drums and clarinets in Saracen, one of Istanbul's oldest districts.

Istanbul's current mayor first used the slogan five years ago when he won the city from Mr Erdogan's party. Some of the banners at Saracen used his current slogan “Full Speed ​​Forward”.

“They are only local elections, but the victory of the opposition in the big cities shows a significant force against the ruling party,” Imamoglu supporter Yeşim Albayrak, 25, told the BBC.

Mehmet Bangazi, 27, told the BBC that Turkey needed change: “If Imamoglu or Mansur Yavas had been the CHP candidate in last year's presidential election, they would have definitely won.”

Five years ago, Mr Imamoglu toppled years of AK Party rule in Istanbul with the support of other opposition parties. But that opposition coalition broke down after last year's presidential election debacle and the AK Party had high hopes of overturning his 2019 victory.

The city is home to a fifth of Turkey's population of nearly 85 million. Control Istanbul You control a significant part of Turkey's economy, including trade, tourism, and finance.

Ahead of Sunday's election, the poll was seen as close as the incumbent mayor faces a strong challenge from AK Party candidate Murat Kurum.

But the ruling party could not shake off the economic crisis where the inflation rate was 67% and the interest rate was 50%.

Mr Erdogan's AK Party has been more successful in the southeastern regions hit by the February 2023 twin earthquakes. It is leading in the cities of Kahramanmaras and Gaziantep.

Some 61 million Turks were eligible to take part in Sunday's election and more than a million young voters cast their ballots for the first time. Voter turnout is estimated to be over 76% in 81 provinces of the country.

image source, Murat Glue/PPO/Manual

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Sunday's vote is seen as a test of popularity for President Erdogan, who has been in power for 21 years

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