What impact will the vote in Istanbul have?

Opposition candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu has won the repeat mayoral election in Istanbul, beating out AKP candidate Binali Yıldırım by a substantial margin. His victory is all the more remarkable given that it was Erdoğan's conservative AKP which had pushed for a rerun of the vote. Observers discuss what can be expected of rivals İmamoğlu and Erdoğan.

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The Irish Times (IE) /

Take a sober view of the CHP

Those who are expecting the new mayor of Istanbul and his party to implement major reforms may soon be disappointed, The Irish Times notes:

“Imamoglu is too inexperienced to be an immediate threat to Erdogan's position - which is unassailable within his own party in any case. Moreover, the upstart mayor's own political base - the Republican People's Party (CHP) - is hardly a bastion of new ideas and European-style social democracy. Founded by Ataturk, the soldier-statesman who forged the republic from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire after the first world war, the CHP has long been reactionary, exclusionary and controlling - like Erdogan's movement is today.”

De Tijd (BE) /

Stony path to a better Turkey

Ekrem Imamoğlu faces a difficult task following his victory in Istanbul, political scientist Dirk Rochtus points out in De Tijd:

“Perhaps he will become the opposition candidate in the national elections. He must not repeat Erdoğan's mistakes and exclude people, but rather unite all the cultural and ideological groups in a project aimed at a pluralistic Turkey. The challenges are huge, as are the risks. Erdoğan is licking is wounds. His political demise is perhaps just a matter of time, but he can always put a spanner in the works. The path to a better Turkey - Imamoğlu's slogan - is full of obstacles.”


Greece may have to pay the price

Turkey's president is now more unpredictable than ever, Tvxs fears:

“Erdoğan's crashing defeat has much wider repercussions than the election in Istanbul. However, that doesn't mean the Sultan is now going to sit on his hands and accept his trouncing. ... What's more, a President Erdoğan who finds himself in a difficult position and tries to make a comeback is likely to pose other problems. That could be the case in particular for Greek-Turkish relations and the Exclusive Economic Zone between Cyprus and Greece. Such problems were already evident in the days prior to the election when it looked like Erdoğan was seeking to polarise public opinion. And when it comes to such destabilisation manoeuvres the president is highly unpredictable.”

Lietuvos rytas (LT) /

Democracy still has a chance

Lietuvos rytas can barely conceal its delight at the outcome of the Istanbul election:

“It looked like the president of Turkey had it all - a changed constitution, an obedient parliament, a loyal army. But suddenly, oh dear, he loses the local elections in his home city Istanbul, from where he was catapulted into big politics. Erdoğan gets nervous, claims the gap of 13,000 votes is a result of fraud, announces a new election. But good morning: this time the opposition wins by a margin of 800,000 votes and celebrates a huge party on the streets of Istanbul while the president chews nervously on his moustache. ... So let's not be so quick to write off liberal democracy as a lost cause.”

Journal 21 (CH) /

President could tighten the screws even more

Erdoğan is as powerful as he ever was, Journal 21 puts in:

“Despite the defeat in Istanbul the president still has a firm grip on power. Thanks to the presidential system he introduced he can do just as he pleases. He continues to gag the media like a dictator. Opposition figures are arrested almost on a daily basis. Everywhere he looks he sees putschists, terrorists and enemies 'controlled from abroad'. The fact that the Supreme Electoral Council annulled the elections of March 31 shows that the courts aren't independent. Erdoğan could use the election defeat in Istanbul to crack down even harder on his opponents.”

Karar (TR) /

Erdoğan needs advisors

The conservative daily Karar lists its explanations for why Erdoğan's party was defeated:

“The AKP was first founded as a cadre party and remained so at first, which allowed it to overcome significant economic and foreign policy challenges. Recently, however, it has increasingly lost this character. With the personalisation of party leadership, centralisation and the limiting of control to a small clique, the party's political quality declined rapidly. Loyalty, rather than competence or merit, became the criterion for obtaining a position in the party or the government. In fact there is no longer anyone in the party who is placed immediately behind the leader, whose words are heeded and whose influence could make itself felt.”

Deutsche Welle (RO) /

Religious Turks also fed up with the tyrant

A growing number of Turks have had enough of their president, the Romanian service of German broadcaster Deutsche Welle comments:

“Istanbul is not Turkey. It is not extensive Anatolia but, like Izmir, represents the European Turkey. But it's clear that the approximately ten percentage point lead the election winner had against the defeated Islamist also included votes from religious Turkey who have turned their backs on Erdoğan. Why? Not because they have suddenly lost their faith but because they are sick and tired of this tyrant, his tricks, his injustices and his insatiable hunger for power.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Beginning of the end of an era

President Erdoğan's hitherto unlimited power is crumbling, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung observes:

“This first real and major defeat for Erdoğan marks a turning point. Because even if the president is still in charge for now and the state apparatus listens to his will and the media isn't putting up any resistance any more, he can no longer justify his authoritarian rule with the 'national will'. This automatism stopped working on 23 June, and in the long run this could really be the beginning of the end of Erdoğan's era.”

Libération (FR) /

President in a predicament

Imamoğlu's victory puts President Erdoğan in a difficult position, Jérémie Berlioux, Libération's Turkey correspondent, concurs:

“Although the city council and most districts are in the hands of the AKP, Imamoğlu has secured a powerful position. 'If we observe any systematic obstruction we'll inform the people', he announced following his victory. Whichever course he chooses, Erdoğan will have to watch out. If he lets Imamoğlu rule in peace, the latter could become a serious rival in the presidential election in 2023. But if he puts a spoke in Imamoğlu's wheel he risks casting him as a victim and strengthening his role as the new hero of the opposition.”

Habertürk (TR) /

AKP made a big mistake with repeat of election

The AKP didn't do itself any favours by having the election repeated, writes columnist Nihal Bengisu Karaca in Habertürk:

“There was no reason not to accept the election result of 31 March. ... I see the fact that the gap between the two candidates is now so big in connection with the events of the last days, which were very, very unique. ... It was as if a child had entered the cockpit and pushed all the buttons in front of him. ... The fear of losing Istanbul a second time prompted the government to do such contradictory things so quickly that anyone with any powers of recall would be left dizzy. ... İmamoğlu was slandered again and again and still he won a second time in the end - and by a clear margin.”

Index (HU) /

Istanbul is where the money is

Ekrem Imamoğlu's victory is symbolic but will also have financial consequences, Index comments:

“It means that in the elections in March and in the repeat vote on Sunday the AKP lost Istanbul and Ankara to the united opposition, and the third-largest city, Izmir, in the west of the country, is traditionally Kemalist anyway. Erdoğan himself started his career as mayor of Istanbul. But apart from the symbolic significance the election outcome is also important for economic reasons. By gaining access to Istanbul's money supply the opposition has secured significant economic resources, whereas the AKP's influence on business life is dwindling and it's becoming more difficult to finance the party.”