A new star is born in İstanbul as Erdoğan’s power wanes - The Independent

Main opposition Republican People's Party’s (CHP) moderate and mild-mannered candidate Ekrem İmamoglu has emerged as the star of Sunday’s polls, managing to win over the sceptical supporters of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice Development Party (AKP) to become the mayor of İstanbul, wrote the Independent on Monday.

The CHP candidate “shocked Turkey’s entire nation’s political class and even many of his own supporters by emerging as the frontrunner in the closely contested race for mayor of Istanbul,’’ the article said, noting that CHP’s apparent victory was the most high-profile opposition against Erdogan’s “powerful, well-funded political machine in nationwide municipal elections.”  

“I believe despite all these disadvantages in terms of money we spent, we had a just cause,” Yüksel Taşkın, a member of the opposition CHP’s leadership assembly, told the Independent. “Our points were well understood by the public. Sometimes message is more important than money.”

Sunday’s polls also suggested some aspects of Turkish democracy remain intact, the Independent article said, with some 84 percent of eligible voters casting their ballots.

Noting that vote counts remain unofficial, pending verification by the electoral commission and resolution of challenges, the article stressed the opposition’s success shouldn’t be exaggerated even if considerable gains were made.

With control over the municipal governments of Turkey’s three largest cities, the CHP  scored a net gain of at least seven municipal governments held by AKP or its partner the nationalist National Movement Party (MHP), it said.

The pro-Kurdish leftist People’s Democratic Party (HDP) also made gains in eastern Turkey, home to a large Kurdish population, the article pointed out. 

Receiving almost 45 percent of all votes cast, AKP did fairly well for a party that’s been in power for 17 years, the Independent noted.

In the first polls since the country’s financial crisis last year, which saw the lira lose 30 percent of its value, it is Erdoğan’s economic failures and what many criticised as his political grandstanding that likely caused the party’s electoral losses, it said.  

“This is very much about everything that Erdogan did wrong – from the campaigning, to the candidates to the economy to the rhetoric,” said Selim Sazak, a Turkey specialist at the Watson Institute of Brown University. “At the end of the day this an election about who is going to take our sewage away. This is not about Syria. This is not about Palestine.”

“The AKP may have met its match with Mr Imamoglu. At first he seemed too nice and white-collar to take on the powerful AKP and its mayoral candidate, Binali Yildirim, a former prime minister, parliamentary speaker, and transport minister close to Mr Erdogan. Polls had him down a few percentage points before the vote,’’ the Independent said. 

İmamoğlu, unlike his AKP counterparts, “never fell into the trap of polarisation,” CHP’s Taşkın told the Independent. “For him to be able to win, he needed to have gotten the votes of AKP people, Kurdish people, as well as the other opposition forces.”