Socialist Worker

Istanbul mayor vote a blow for Turkey’s president

Opposition delivers major defeat to the ruling AKP party by winning re-run Istanbul election

Issue No. 2660

Imamoglu (centre) votes

Ekrem Imamoglu (centre) casts his vote

Tens of thousands of people poured onto the streets of Istanbul on Sunday night after the opposition candidate for mayor won.

He secured a thundering win over repressive Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP party in the city of 16 million people.

Ekrem Imamoglu had been declared the winner in elections at the end of March. But Erdogan’s supporters called for a rerun after claiming irregularities and fraud.

Is Erdogan slipping?
Is Erdogan slipping?
  Read More

This undemocratic ruse ­backfired. In March Imamoglu won by 13,000 votes. This time his majority was over 800,000.

“We are starting a new page in Istanbul. On this new page, there will be justice, equality, love,” Imamoglu told supporters.

He was the candidate of the social democratic CHP in alliance with a range of liberal and Kurdish parties.

The CHP is associated by many with aggressive secularism and this has enabled the AKP to pose as the friend of pious and poor Muslims.

But that grip is now eroding.


Imamoglu won in some of what are regarded as Istanbul’s “conservative Muslim” districts such as Fatih and Erdogan’s own childhood district of Beyoglu.

One factor is the increasingly dictatorial nature of Erdogan’s rule. He has sharply restricted democratic freedoms, stepped up the war on Kurdish areas and grabbed more and more powers for himself.

After a failed military coup attempt against him in 2016, Erdogan launched a massive purge of state institutions.

He sacked tens of thousands of teachers, lecturers and other public sector workers, jailed thousands of activists and closed huge parts of the opposition media.

Another factor is the economic crisis that has seen rampant inflation and declining living standards.

Istanbul, the capital Ankara and the third city Izmir are all now in opposition hands. There is now likely to be a power struggle between Erdogan and the ­municipal leaders.

Istanbul accounts for just short of a third of the value of Turkey’s total economic production. It has a municipal budget of over £3 billion and can hand out lucrative contacts.

Erdogan will seek to squeeze the opposition financially and possibly through legal manoeuvres.

Another flashpoint could be a show-trial that is about to begin of 16 alleged organisers of the 2013 Taksim Square uprising that spread to many areas of the country.

This was triggered by plans to redevelop a local park but became a generalised protest for democracy and civil rights.

Erdogan and his subservient prosecutors ludicrously say ­protesters associated with billionaire George Soros used the Taksim rising as a dry run for the 2016 coup.

In his victory speech Imamoglu urged the president to cooperate on issues from earthquake preparedness to helping the city’s half a million Syrian refugees. “I am ready and willing to work with you in ­harmony,” he said.

But it will take struggle to defeat Erdogan.

Charlie Kimber

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.