Ten undesirable results for Erdoğan following the Istanbul defeat
Erdoğan’s power is fading: During the prolonged period following the March 31 Istanbul mayoral elections when there was the possibility ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) candidate Binali Yıldırım would win, the possibility of losing the elections began to weigh the party down. The party organization, which normally would lose one day and start over the next, spent the last three weeks waking up wondering “Can we win ?” then going to bed that night feeling pessimistic. The officials continue blaming one another, and the mental fatigue within the party is on the rise.
Sore loser: Erdoğan is being accused of both not accepting his loss and not knowing how to lose. His party has had every government resource at their fingertips for 17 years and every state resource for the last three to five years, but the fact that they’ve attached some conspiracy theories to their defeat at the Istanbul polls, the last thing they have been clinging to— has tarnished their legitimacy.
Conflicting messages and policies are spreading post-election: Following Friday morning prayers (5:34 a.m. local time) Erdoğan tweeted an invitation for Turkey to “come together on a common ground,” and then said “This is a period for shaking hands, embracing one another and strengthening our unity and solidarity,” in another tweet. But at a funeral following afternoon prayers the same day, we saw footage of Erdoğan not shaking hands with Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu and instead shaking hands with the person next to him. As such, Erdoğan continues to ignore and insult his victorious rival.
By taking this approach towards İmamoğlu, who has officially received his mandate from the Supreme Election Council (YSK), Erdoğan is demonstrating that he still does not respect a candidate elected through, what he famously refers to as, the ''national will.''
Ballot-box democrat Erdoğan took a hit: For years, Erdoğan referenced the ballot boxes as the only element of democracy, and in fact this has been the case in Turkey, but now he has reached a point where he can no longer call himself a ballot-box democrat. Especially in the years following the 2016 coup attempt when elections were held under a state of emergency, voting has been neither free nor fair. The ruling AKP leadership are now creating the perception that they choose not to accept the results of the first elections held after end of Turkey’s two year long state of emergency rule.
International calls for legitimacy: Several European governments and the U.S. State Department have called on Erdoğan to accept the local election results for Istanbul and Ankara. The perception that Erdogan is refusing to concede to the elections has spread to Western capitals.
Erdoğan lost his treasure: Turkey’s strongman didn’t just lose Istanbul, his most treasured city; he also lost the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been pouring into his charities from Istanbul’s coffers.
Erdoğan lost his “invincible” image: Before the 2017 referendum, a member of the opposition came to Washington and said in a meeting that Turkey’s biggest problem is that everyone has the idea in their head that Erdoğan is “invincible,” after which Erdoğan was victorious in the referendum as well. This time, Erdoğan has lost his air of invincibility.
Helpless Erdoğan: If Erdoğan had accepted that he’d lost Istanbul in the early days following the elections, he wouldn’t have caused so much trouble for himself.
Shortly after the elections, a relatively unknown figure, AKP Deputy Chairman Ali İhsan Yavuz, suddenly became the face of the AKP. AKP’s Istanbul mayoral candidate Binali Yıldırım didn’t appear very aggressive with claims of winning. Yıldırım also stated out loud in interviews that he disagreed with AKP Chairman Erdoğan’s “survival” rhetoric during the campaign. Yavuz was already known for a strange picture he posted of İshak Paşa Palace in Doğubeyazıt and for defending ridiculous ideas, such as the theory that toothpaste weakens the mind. The absurd position of claiming that a lost election isn’t lost furthered Erdoğan’s “helplessness.”
Erdoğan is on the defensive: Until now, the Erdoğan we’ve come to know as being “on the offensive,” is now trying to not cede Istanbul, however regardless of how much he tries to give the impression of making every effort to take Istanbul legally, there’s nothing he can do.
After this nearly three-week period of Erdoğan refusing to accept defeat but not winning either, he may be no longer appear to be a trusted political figure to his supporters.
With Erdoğan’s defeat comes a loss for many of those in his circle as well. A long-running rumour that there may be a new movement from within or a new party emerges from the AKP now forms more a threat to Erdoğan’s reign.
He has encouraged his opponents: Erdoğan’s defeat has emboldened his opponents as well. Opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu didn’t just win Istanbul, he also won in other large cities like Ankara, Adana, and Mersin. This recent loss creates a psychology of failure.
The victim opponent was born: İmamoğlu is the first candidate being talked about as an alternative to Erdoğan. The newly-appointed Istanbul mayor, just as with Erdoğan’s 1994 victory, won the election as an unknown entity. Now İmamoğlu is seen as a possible opponent for Erdoğan in media reports and in some Western circles. İmamoğlu is reminiscent of Prime Minister Turgut Özal in that he has conservative roots and the force of Atatürk in his veins, giving rise to a new hope.
Some people will ask this: Following the big blow to Erdoğan after the Istanbul elections, whose devastating results on the AKP have discussed above, some may argue, and rightly so, that the Turkish president has nothing left to lose. For a politician who has lost just about everything related to the Istanbul elections, it’s important to remember that his final demand is for new elections, and there is a strong possibility that he will do everything in his power to make this a reality. He is already loser, so he may be thinking of a complete blow out by pushing for the cancellation of the whole thing.