Turkish elections 2019: Erdogan loses support in major cities

Strongman president’s ruling party facing defeats in local votes in Ankara and Istanbul

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
(Image credit: ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suffered a shock double setback in the country’s local elections, with his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) reportedly set to lose control of Turkey’s two biggest cities.

In what The Guardian describes as a “blow” to the incumbent leader following 16 years in power, the AKP has been defeated in capital Ankara by the Nation Alliance coalition. The group, which consists of four opposition parties, was set up to contest the 2018 general election.

In a further upset, the head of Turkey’s electoral board said the “opposition was also leading in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city and commercial centre”.

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Sezgin Tanrikulu, a senior MP for the centre-left Republican People’s Party (CHP) - the largest force within the Nation Alliance - said he expected the board to declare victory within hours.

“We have won the election in Istanbul with around 28,000 votes. For legal reasons, the board is waiting for the objection period to be over to declare our win,” Tanrikulu told Al Jazeera.

Overall, Erdogan’s party are believed to have won 51% of the votes nationwide, but the AKP’s twin losses have sent “shockwaves” through the country, says The Guardian.

The BBC notes that the local elections have taken on wider significance “as a verdict on Erdogan’s rule”.

The votes have been taking place during a substantial economic downturn that has seen the lira losing value and the economy entering recession in recent months.

“This could be a watershed moment for Turkey’s powerful, polarising president: when an opposition long seen as moribund finally feels he’s beatable,” writes the BBC’s Turkey correspondent, Mark Lowen.

Politico calls the elections a “litmus test of the president’s popularity”, and notes that the results mark a “significant setback for Erdogan”.

In a speech late on Sunday, the president said: “We, as the AKP, have lost some of the municipalities. We will accept that we have won the hearts of our people in the places where we won, and we were not successful enough in the places where we lost, and we will decide on our action plan accordingly.”

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