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Turkish opposition ahead in battle for key cities


The main Turkish opposition party has claimed victory in the mayoral race in the capital Ankara as the party built a solid lead in the count for control of Istanbul, according to partial results from local elections.

In Ankara, mayor Mansur Yavas of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) said “the elections are over we will continue to serve Ankara”.

Yavas was leading with 58.6% of the vote to 33.5% for his opponent from the country’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), from 46.4% of ballot boxes opened.

In Istanbul, with more than 71% of ballot boxes opened, current mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, also of the CHP, had 50.4% of the vote to his AKP rival’s 40.9%.

“Voters have chosen to change the face of Turkey,” said CHP chairman Ozgur Ozel as the results emerged. “They want to open the door to a new political climate in our country.”

The country has been dominated for more than two decades by the AKP of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The veteran president had launched an all-out campaign to win back Istanbul, which was lost to the ChP in 2019.

With rampant inflation and economic crisis hitting households, city mayor Ekrem Imamoglu expressed confidence of a new victory and a partial result put the CHP ahead in Istanbul and the capital Ankara.

Erdogan’s treasure

“I would like to thank all of us, our citizens, from the bottom of my heart for fulfilling this sacred duty.”

After casting his vote with his family, Imamoglu emerged to applause and chants of “Everything will be fine”, his 2019 election slogan.

Although Erdogan dominated the campaign the veteran president’s personal role did not help overcome the widespread concerns over the country’s economy.

“Everyone is worried about the day to day,” said 43-year-old Istanbul inhabitant Guler Kaya as she voted.

“The crisis is swallowing up the middle class, we have had to change all our habits,” she said. “If Erdogan wins, it will get even worse.”

Vote change happens “when we cannot afford a living, when we cannot eat”, Ali Faik Demir, a political scientist at Galatasaray University, told AFP.

An Imamoglu victory on Sunday would make him the likely main opponent to Erdogan’s ruling AKP in the next presidential election in 2028.

Erdogan has been president since 2014 and won a new term in May last year. He had called Istanbul the national “treasure” when launching his campaign to retake the city.

If Erdogan won back Istanbul and Ankara, he would have an incentive to “amend” the constitution to stand for re-election for a fourth term, warned Bayram Balci, political scientist at Sciences Po university in France.

More than a mayor’s race

“This election will mark the beginning of a new era for our country,” Erdogan said after casting his vote in Istanbul at midday on Sunday.

“Whoever wins Istanbul, wins Turkey,” Erman Bakirci, a pollster from Konda Research and Consultancy, recalled Erdogan once saying.

The election was held with the country reeling from an inflation rate of 67% and having seen the lira currency slide from 19 to a dollar to 32 to a dollar in one year.

Armed clashes were reported in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority southeast, leaving one dead and 12 wounded, a local official told AFP.

The pro-Kurdish DEM party said it had identified irregularities “in almost all the Kurdish provinces”, in particular through suspicious cases of proxy voting.

Observers from France were refused access to a polling station in the region, according to the lawyers’ association MLSA.

Some 61 million people were eligible to vote for mayors across Turkey’s 81 provinces, as well as provincial council members and other local officials.

The opposition has been fractured ahead of the polls, in contrast with the local elections five years ago.
This time the CHP, has failed to rally support behind a single candidate.


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