April 12. 2024. 10:33

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Istanbul to be main battleground in upcoming Turkish local election

While the Turkish opposition is poised to repeat their 2019 election success in the capital Ankara in an upcoming local election, in Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP and the opposition CHP are running neck and neck.

The local elections are largely seen as a litmus test for the strength of the opposition, which has vowed on several occasions to bring Turkey back on track towards EU accession in a potential post-Erdoğan era.

The main Turkish opposition party, the centre-left CHP, celebrated major victories during the 2019 local elections, where it managed to take both of Turkey’s two largest cities, Istanbul and Ankara.

In Ankara, the CHP is poised to post another election victory on 31 March, as the party’s candidate, incumbent mayor Mansur Yavaş, is leading by a comfortable margin. Yavaş is projected to win 49% of the votes, according to aggregated polls by Europe Elects – 9% ahead of the contender from the AKP.

However, Erdoğan, who kick-started his political career as the mayor of Istanbul in the 1990s, is keen to win back Turkey’s metropolis with a population of 15 million.

According to polls by Europe Elects, Erdoğan’s AKP is currently polling one percentage point ahead of incumbent CHP mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, who is projected to capture 37% of the voters.

In the local elections of March 2019, İmamoğlu managed to secure a narrow victory by a margin of only 0.16%. The election was later annulled by the election authorities due to pressure from Erdoğan. In a re-run in June the same year, the CHP won with a comfortable lead of over 9%.

This time around, Erdoğan is placing his bets on the former environment minister Murat Kurum to win back Istanbul, the election’s most coveted prize. Kurum made a name for himself following the earthquake in February 2023, when he led the efforts to construct emergency shelters.

The AKP is primarily benefitting from the fragmentation of the national opposition parties. While the AKP candidate Kurum is also supported by the nationalist MHP, the three major opposition parties will not run on a joint platform this time around.

In 2019, İmamoğlu received support from the Kurdish HDP and the İYİ-party to oust the AKP from Istanbul.

However, the two parties this time announced plans to run with their own candidates, with the candidate of the İYİ-party projected to win 5% of the votes and the Kurdish DEM, the successor party of the HDP, 7%, respectively.

As the candidate with the most votes will become mayor, regardless of whether they manage to attract 50% of the voters, the candidates of DEM and the İYİ-party are weakening İmamoğlu’s position, making a win for the AKP more likely than in 2019.

Although Erdoğan has continued winning successive presidential and parliamentary elections, he has lost considerable support in recent years.

While he managed to win the presidential election in 2023, he finished only 5% ahead of his CHP contender and had to enter a second voting round for the first time since Turkey’s constitutional revision in 2017.

Read more with Euractiv

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