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Turkiye opposition claims big city wins

By JONATHAN POWELL in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-04-02 09:17
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Supporters of the opposition party celebrate following the early results of local elections in Istanbul on Sunday. UMIT BEKTAS/REUTERS

Turkiye's primary opposition party has claimed victory in local elections in Istanbul and Ankara, dealing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party, or AK, their most significant setback in more than 20 years.

Ekrem Imamoglu of the Republican People's Party, or CHP, secured a second term as mayor of Istanbul, declaring victory by a margin of more than 1 million votes.

In the capital Ankara, Mayor Mansur Yavas from CHP secured victory over his rival Turgut Altinok from the ruling AK. Yavas hailed the result as a "clear message to those who rule this country". The CHP was also ahead in Izmir, Turkiye's third city, Al Jazeera reported.

Erdogan, aiming to regain authority over the cities shortly after securing a third presidential term, spearheaded the effort to secure victory in Istanbul, where he was raised and previously served as mayor.

After more than 95 percent of ballot boxes were opened in Istanbul on Sunday, Imamoglu said he had defeated the governing AK candidate.

"Those who do not understand the nation's message will eventually lose," Imamoglu told supporters late on Sunday.

Erdogan's ruling party lost control of both cities in the last local elections in 2019. In May last year, Erdogan was reelected as president and his alliance secured a majority of seats in the Turkish Parliament.

According to state-run news service Anadolu Agency, the CHP claimed victory in 36 out of Turkiye's 81 provinces, making gains in many strongholds of the AK.

In Istanbul, opposition supporters congregated to celebrate the results, lighting torches and waving Turkish flags in celebration.

Sinan Ulgen, director of the Edam think tank in Istanbul, told The Associated Press the unexpected result stemmed from voters seeking to penalize the ruling party for the economic situation. He characterized the elections as a pivotal moment for Imamoglu.

Having ruled Turkiye since 2002, Erdogan conceded that his party had experienced a decline in support nationwide, and made a commitment to self-reflection. "We will correct our mistakes and redress our shortcomings," he said.

"Regardless of the results, the winner of this election is primarily democracy," he added. "Unfortunately, we couldn't get the result we wanted in local elections … Everything happens for a reason. We will rebuild trust in places where our nation has chosen someone else." Agencies contributed to this story.

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