The Irish Times view on Turkey’s recent elections: a serious setback for Erdogan

As the economy struggles, the president is under pressure on all sides, with the vote seeing a major turnaround from last May’s presidential poll

The tide is turning on Turkey’s autocrat President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Voters in its main cities’ mayoral elections inflicted the first major political reverse on the president since his rise to power two decades ago. In the process they boosted the secular opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP} as a credible alternative to the president and his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Erdogan’s traditional base is also being eroded by conservative, Islamist-leaning New Welfare (YRP), and with the economy still languishing, he faces a major uphill challenge on the long road to the 2028 general election.

Ekrem Imamoglu’s victory in Istanbul for a third successive term was particularly notable. Erdogan, who launched his own political career here, had thrown his full weight behind the AKP candidate who lost the country’s largest city, home to 18 per cent of its population, by a record 12 percentage point margin. On Sunday night jubilant crowds poured on to the streets dancing and singing, car horns sounding late into the night.

Overall the CHP captured 38 per cent of the national vote, up from 23 per cent in 2018′s general election, while support for the AKP fell to 35 per cent, despite Erdogan’s use of the state to jail or intimidate opponents and the media to flood the airwaves with his own propaganda.

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The defeat marks a stark turnaround from the presidential election of May last year, in which Erdogan fought off a six-party opposition alliance led by an uninspiring candidate, Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

A combination of the president’s unorthodox economic policies, years of inflation now running at 70 per cent, soaring interest rates, and disenchantment with his authoritarian rule seem to have finally undermined support for Erdogan An increasingly impoverished middle class in the cities and frustration in the earthquake zones left him with a mountain to climb. Many had backed him after he promised to build large numbers of new homes following the quake. But a year on, hundreds of thousands remain in shelters.

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