What Does a New Mayor in Istanbul Mean for Erdogan?

Gerald F. Hyman
Reuters

Gerald F. Hyman

Security, Middle East

It is too early to tell whether the mayoral elections mark a turning point for Erdoğan within the Justice and Development party and within the larger Turkish political system.

What Does a New Mayor in Istanbul Mean for Erdogan?

Ekrem İmamoğlu, of Turkey’s secular Kemalist Republican People’s Party (CHP), won the mayoral election in Istanbul on June 23—perhaps for the second time this year. İmamoğlu claimed victory the first time on March 31 with a margin of .2 percent but the Supreme Election Council controlled by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) held that, although the AKP together with its ultranationalist and Eurosceptic partner the Nationalist Movement Party lost the elections in Ankara and Izmir, irregularities in Istanbul together with the close margin required that the election there had to be rerun. Istanbul is Erdogan’s home base and the source of a substantial share of his personal and the AKP’s patronage and finances and those of Turkey as well. He marshalled resources, including those of the state itself, to secure Istanbul this time. That plan backfired massively. This time the 54-45 margin was too decisive to deny. Erdoğan ally and former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, graciously conceded defeat on election night.

For the sake of his own now-bright future, as well as for the sake of the CHP and the restoration of full democracy in Turkey, Imamoğlu should now concentrate on two main and two secondary tasks.

First, he needs to govern effectively and honestly. Corruption and the plunder of Istanbul’s resources by the AKP were important reasons for the defeat of the AKP (more than its hapless candidate Binali Yildirim). Of course, effective and honest governance is the key to electoral victory everywhere, but the citizens of Istanbul will be particularly eagle-eyed now that they have reversed the status quo ante and elected a candidate running primarily on that platform.

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