Erdogan loses hold over Ankara, Istanbul

This is the first time in a quarter of a century, when his party has lost Turkey's capital

Photo: EPA Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suffered a severe setback as his ruling AK Party lost control of the capital Ankara for the first time in a local election and appeared to concede defeat in the country’s largest city, Istanbul, as well. While the defeat for his Islamist-rooted party in Ankara was a significant blow for the president, losing Istanbul, where he launched his political career and served as mayor in the 1990s, is an even greater symbolic shock and a broader sign of dwindling support.

Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics since coming to power 16 years ago and ruled his country with an ever tighter grip, campaigned relentlessly for two months ahead of Sunday’s vote, which he described as a “matter of survival” for Turkey. But the president’s daily rallies and overwhelmingly supportive media coverage failed to win over the country’s capital or secure a definitive result in Istanbul, as Turkey’s economic downturn weighed heavily on voters.

According to Turkish media reports, opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Mansur Yavas had won a clear victory in Ankara after a 25-year reign by Erdogan's party and its predecessors.

“The people have voted in favor of democracy, they have chosen democracy,” opposition leader Kemal Kılıcdaroglu said, declaring that his secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) had taken Ankara and Istanbul from the AK Party and held its Aegean coastal stronghold of Izmir, Turkey’s third largest city,

And even though both the CHP and AKP - or Justice and Development Party - claimed victory by a slender margin in the contest for mayor of Istanbul, Erdogan, speaking to supporters in Ankara, hinted that the AKP may have lost control of the city.

"Even if our people gave away the mayoralty, they gave the districts to the AK Party," he said, vowing to focus his leadership on the Turkish economy ahead of national elections scheduled to take place in 2023.

Despite losing the big cities, however, nationally, the AKP-led alliance has still won more than 51% of the vote in the municipal elections.

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