Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan suffered a major blow when the people of Istanbul once again chose Ekrem İmamoğlu of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) as the mayor in a rerun on June 23. İmamoğlu won 54% of the votes and defeated Binali Yildrim from Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) by an increased margin. İmamoğlu had won the previous mayoral election held in March, which was nullified, reportedly due to pressure exerted by Erdogan and the AKP.
SoL reported that Imamoglu obtained the lead in 28 out of the 39 districts of the city while Binali Yildirim was able to do so only in 11 districts. In the wake of his thumping victory, İmamoğlu told his supporters, “We are opening a new page in Istanbul. In this new page, there will be justice, equality, love. We will stop the arrogance and waste. Today, 16 million Istanbulites have refreshed our belief in democracy”.
In the local body elections held on March 31, the opposition Nation Alliance had registered victories in major cities, such as Ankara and Istanbul. The AKP challenged the results of the election and the country’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal nullified them. This prompted a wave of outrage from opposition parties. At the same time, confident that the anti-incumbency wave against Erdogan would prevail, they accepted the rerun. Their confidence was proved right as İmamoğlu’s margin of victory increased from 13,000 votes in March to over 750,000.
The election result shows that larger opposition unity can triumph, and is crucial at a time when Erdogan and the AKP have a vice-like grip on all levels of the Turkish establishment.