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Erdoğan’s AKP suffers historic defeat in Turkey’s polls, CHP leading party after decades

Supporters of Justice and Development Party (AKP) cheer as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan delivers a speech after the Turkish local elections at the AKP headquarters in Ankara on April 1, 2024. (Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has suffered its worst election defeat since coming to power two decades ago, while the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has emerged as the country’s leading party after decades, according to the preliminary results of Turkey’s local elections on Sunday.

According to the state-run Anadolu news agency, with over 99.8 percent of ballots counted, the CHP emerged as the leading party for the first time in 47 years, securing 37.7 percent of the vote and maintaining control of key cities and securing substantial gains in other regions, while the AKP, for the first time in 22 years, stood as the second party, garnering only 35.4 percent of the vote.

In the previous local elections in 2019, the AKP’s vote stood at 44.3 percent, while support for CHP was at 30.1 percent.

Ahmet Yener, chair of the Supreme Election Board (YSK), Turkey’s top election authority, announced on Monday that the CHP won the municipalities of 35 out of Turkey’s 81 provinces, including 14 metropolitan municipalities such as İstanbul, Ankara and İzmir, while the AKP won 12 metropolitan municipalities and 12 other provinces.

AKP candidates also won in 324 districts, while the CHP candidates won in 322 districts, according to Yener.

İstanbul, a city of 16 million people where Erdoğan was born, raised and launched his political career as mayor in 1994, was the primary battleground for the 70-year-old president.

The city hosts a fifth of Turkey’s population of nearly 85 million people. Governing İstanbul means having influence over a substantial segment of Turkey’s economy, including trade, tourism and finance.

The city’s incumbent Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu of the CHP, who ended years of AKP rule by winning a rerun of the 2019 election, scored a third victory for the secular opposition CHP in Turkey’s largest city and economic hub. While İmamoğlu won 51 percent of the vote, support for AKP candidate Murat Kurum, a former minister of environment and urban planning, stood at 39.6 percent.

The CHP won 26 districts in İstanbul, while the AKP secured victory in 13.

Yavaş wins landslide victory in Ankara

The capital Ankara’s Mayor Mansur Yavaş, also from the CHP, retained his seat with a stunning 28-point difference over his challenger, Turgut Altınok of the AKP. The CHP won in 16 out of 25 districts, including AKP stronghold Keçiören, which was won by the CHP for the first time since 1989, the results showed.

In the CHP stronghold of İzmir, CHP candidate Cemil Tugay became the new mayor, receiving 48.9 percent of the vote. The party won in 28 out of 30 districts in the province. AKP candidate Hamza Dağ, on the other hand, garnered 37 percent of the vote, while the AKP won in only one district, Menemen.

The CHP again won the metropolitan municipalities of Adana, Ankara, Antalya, Aydın, Eskişehir, Mersin, Muğla, Tekirdağ, İzmir and İstanbul while also securing victory in Turkey’s fourth-biggest city and conservative stronghold Bursa, as well as Balıkesir, Manisa and Denizli, increasing its total of metropolitan municipalities from 11 to 14.

The CHP also achieved victory in the western provinces of Manisa and Afyonkarahisar for the first time since the launch of local elections in Turkey in 1963.

AKP suffers defeats in former strongholds

Meanwhile, the AKP sustained surprising defeats in provinces such as Adıyaman, Ağrı, Afyonkarahisar, Balıkesir, Bursa, Denizli, Kilis, Kırıkkale, Muş, Nevşehir, Şanlıurfa, Tokat, Uşak, Yozgat and Zonguldak, where it emerged victorious in 2019.

Some 61 million people, including more than a million first-time voters, were eligible to participate in the local elections, which saw a turnout of around 78.1 percent — a significant decline from the 87 percent recorded last year.

Delivering a speech from the balcony of the presidential palace late on Sunday, Erdoğan acknowledged that his party suffered “a loss of altitude” across the country.

He added that his party would engage in “courageous” self-criticism, correct their mistakes and redress their shortcomings. He pledged to continue with an economic plan implemented last year to tackle Turkey’s inflation, which stands over 65 percent.

CHP leader Özgür Özel also spoke at CHP headquarters in Ankara on Sunday night, saying that the results of the election showed that his party received support from all voter groups, which has “fundamentally changed the course of Turkish politics.”

“The voters have decided to change the 22-year picture of Turkey and open the door to a new political climate in our country. … The CHP is now the party of all democrats and at the same time the party where nationalist, conservative and Kurdish democrats can vote together at the same time,” Özel said.

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