Turkey’s ruling party suffers major losses in local election

World Today

Supporters of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) hold a banner with his picture outside the party’s headquarters a day after the local elections in Istanbul, Monday, April 1, 2019. Turkey’s opposition dealt Erdogan a symbolic blow by gaining ground in key cities in the country’s local elections. The opposition won the capital, Ankara, a ruling party stronghold for decades, and was leading a tight race for mayor in Istanbul, according to unofficial figures Monday. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

Following months of intense campaigning, initial results of local elections in Turkey show that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AK Party lost control of the country’s two biggest cities, the capital Ankara and Istanbul. Michal Bardavid reports.

Initial results are in for Turkey’s municipal elections – and they are surprising. Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party – CHP – won in both the capital Ankara and the country’s business hub Istanbul, a feat CHP hasn’t managed to pull off in 25 years. And a major blow for the ruling government.

Undoubtedly also heartbreak for the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who had declared a “love story” with Istanbul on billboards all across the city. Losing the capital Ankara carries symbolic significance as well.

Erdogan had been rallying for his AK party with incredible force, with six rallies held just on Saturday, a day before the voting. He had labeled these elections a “matter of survival” for the country – hoping to ignite his supporters.

For the AK Party, winning Istanbul was so critical that their candidate was Binali Yildirim, who not only served as Prime Minister but also as parliament speaker. Yildirim said party officials will object to the results, claiming there are too many “invalid” votes.

On Sunday night Erdogan made his usual balcony speech, only this time his tone was different. It’s the first time in over two decades the president had to accept partial defeat.

“Every victory and every loss is the will of our nation and we have to accept this fact as a necessity of democracy. We will admit that we won people’s hearts in cities we won, but we were not successful enough in cities we lost and we will act accordingly,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

Erdogan also emphasized there was much to celebrate as his AK Party still won over 51 percent of votes across the country.

Many analysts see the results as a reaction to the current government – and Erdogan’s leadership. The opposition frequently criticized the scope of the government’s crackdown following the 2016 failed coup. And the AK Party has drifted away from the EU accession process, which is also causing some dissatisfaction, mostly in metropolitan areas.

Voters were also likely driven by financial factors.

“I believe that the message from metropolitan cities was mainly economic, the voters in Istanbul and Ankara, even the ones who voted for AK Party before, they are the ones feeling the economic difficulties the most – they are the ones living in these areas,” Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Hasan Kalyoncu University, Sakir Dincsahin said.

Turkey’s inflation is hovering around 20 percent while the Turkish Lira lost about a third of its’ value last year.

The fight is not over yet. Objections can be made until the 4th of April and a decision will be made by the Supreme Electoral Board by April 13.

Still, Erdogan has already stated he has taken lessons from the defeats and now looks ahead to deal with the country’s issues.

Bulent Aliriza discusses Turkey’s election results

Bulent Aliriza, director of The Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, talked to CGTN’s Asieh Namdar about the opposition victories in Turkey’s national elections.