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Opposition defeat of Erdoğan redraws Turkey’s political map

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Turkish opposition candidates and voters on Monday celebrated inflicting a stinging defeat on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s party in municipal elections.

“You know how it feels when the sun rises? Now it’s like a second sun has risen. We’re so very happy,” said Murat Akgün, 46, a small business owner in İstanbul where Erdoğan had hoped to re-establish the rule of his Justice and Development Party (AKP).

With almost all ballots counted but no official results announced, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) claimed all major cities and expanded into some Anatolian provinces that were considered Erdoğan territory.

It took 35 of Turkey’s 81 provincial capitals to just 24 for the president’s AKP, with the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party) taking 10 and two for the Islamist New Welfare Party (YRP) — a new appearance on the political scene that helped sap AKP support.

İstanbul, the capital Ankara, Adana, Bursa and Antalya were among cities to elect CHP mayors Sunday, less than a year after a failed presidential challenge last May.

Observers called it Erdoğan’s worst election defeat since his party took power in 2002.

Many blamed inflation running at 67 percent and the depreciation of the lira over the past year.

There are “price hikes for everything,” said Zülfiye Dürtek Durmaz, a 28-year-old housewife in İstanbul, calling the government’s response “merciless” with “taxes on everything.”

“I am a mother of two, what can we offer our children? Buy a loaf of bread, see how much it costs. … We need [Erdoğan] to go away,” she added.

The result “can only be explained by the economy,” wrote Abdulkadir Selvi, a commentator for the pro-government Hürriyet newspaper, seen as close to the Erdoğan camp.

“A new wind has blown” through Turkey, and the government now faces “a new political equation,” he added.

The European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, praised the “calm and professional manner” of the election, in a message on X, formerly Twitter. He added that it points to the public “commitment to local democracy.”

“Looking forward to working together on reforms bringing Turkey closer to the EU,” he added.

The EU is seeking better ties after negotiations to join the bloc were frozen in 2018. Turkey has been a candidate since 1999.

The CHP victory may have been expected in İstanbul and Ankara, the economic and political capitals that the party claimed in 2019, but observers saw the broader anti-Erdoğan surge as redrawing the electoral map.

İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, the opposition’s champion since becoming mayor five years ago in a hard-fought battle, now looks set for a presidential run in 2028.

© Agence France-Presse

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