Istanbul election wounded Erdoğan but he is far from out - analyst

The main opposition's victory in the Istanbul mayoral rerun vote was a major blow for Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but the ruling party leader will not give up easily, said an analysis for U.S. think tank the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) on Monday.

The secular main opposition Republican People's Party Istanbul mayoral candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu had a lead of 775,000 votes, a huge increase on the margin of 13,000 he achieved March 31, which was annulled after Erdoğan's ruling party alleged irregularities.

İmamoğlu's triumph, ending 25 year-rule of Erdoğan in Istanbul, was seen as a stinging blow to the Turkish president. Yet Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) are likely to continue to fight.

"Even under duress, they still have significant resources at their disposal to make governing as difficult as possible for Imamoglu,” said Steven A. Cook, senior fellow for Middle East and North Africa studies at CFR.

Despite the rumours of a probe against İmamoğlu, Erdoğan would not risk his "flagging legitimacy" by prosecuting the mayor-elect who won with a significant mandate, according to Cook.

"More likely, Erdoğan will issue presidential decrees limiting the ability of big-city mayors to spend financial resources to govern, blocking them from awarding contracts worth more than $5 million," the analyst said, while also using austerity as a reason to limit financial resources.

Turkey’s president and his ruling party may be dealing with several problems at once, including a weak economy, a strengthened opposition and internal friction. 

"Erdoğan has a lot of time to regain his footing," Cook said, since the next election is scheduled for 2023.

Even so, Cook added, “In Ekrem İmamoğlu, Erdoğan confronts the most interesting politician since he himself became mayor of Istanbul in 1994.”