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20 July, 2024
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Erdogan's worries mount as opposition claims victory in key cities

Turkish elections shake up power dynamics: Opposition rises, government reels

By Manolis Kostides

ISTANBUL – REACTION. There's a palpable sense of satisfaction among the opposition, resonating with a significant portion of the populace, following Sunday's electoral outcome in Istanbul and other major Turkish cities. Meanwhile, within the government ranks, there's a notable air of skepticism and introspection. "This had to happen. It's akin to disciplining a misbehaving child; if you don't, control slips away. That's precisely what's occurred now. The people have delivered their message," remarked the neighborhood grocer early Monday morning, unprompted, as we went about our shopping, his keen interest in the election results evident.

"They turned a deaf ear to us"
"They simply wouldn't listen to our concerns. We warned them that this inflation, this dire situation, is unsustainable, all the while party elites bask in luxury. How can Kuruüm fault the people's modest eateries that İmamoğlu championed? Do they not grasp the plight of the hungry? Well, perhaps now they'll understand," quipped a local baker.

These candid remarks mirror the populace's frustration and yet, a sense of vindication, as they feel they've communicated their sentiments through the local polls. Consequently, during Ekrem İmamoğlu's address on Sunday night, there was an aura of jubilation, with him embodying the victor, shedding his tie and jacket. İmamoğlu conveyed a message of unity and democratic progress for Turkey, stressing, "Let this outcome serve the greater good: for the Kurds of this city, for the Circassians, for all citizens regardless of ethnic identity. Let it be a boon for all faiths in this city: for Christians, Jews, Armenians, Syriac-Chaldeans. Let it benefit one and all."

He further asserted, "As of today, the era of one person's absolute dominance is over. Finished. Today, democracy resoundingly speaks. We've always maintained that ultimately, the people prevail. And today, you know what happened? The people triumphed!"

Balcony speech
In the early hours of Monday morning, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in a customary "balcony speech" following every electoral contest, declared, "March 31st does not signify the end for us; it's a pivotal juncture. The election results indicate a decline in support nationwide. Naturally, we will scrutinize the reasons behind this setback at the grassroots level. Wherever we falter, wherever we lag, we'll identify the causes and take requisite action," he assured the gathered crowd, notably smaller compared to previous events.

Hence, today, the Central Committee of the Justice and Development Party, under Erdoğan's stewardship, convenes to dissect precisely what went awry and what missteps led to the Republican People's Party leading in the province for the first time since Erdoğan's ascent to power.

Analysts unanimously attribute this decline in support primarily to the country's economic woes and the populace's impoverishment, exacerbated post last May's presidential elections.

The television network Sozcu alleges that on Sunday night at the party's central headquarters, Erdoğan placed blame on the economic team, prompting Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek to defend the "unorthodox" economic policies of his predecessors and his efforts to stabilize the economy.

However, the most substantial political blow was dealt by the Islamist Party of New Prosperity led by Fatih Erbakan, which garnered 6.19% of the vote, predominantly drawing from the Justice and Development Party. Come Monday afternoon, the mayoral candidate of the Party of New Prosperity in Istanbul, Mehmet Altinoz, called for early elections! He emphasized that "there's a dire situation in households. Early elections are imperative, as Turkey is grappling with conditions akin to Bangladesh and Somalia. Millions of retirees are struggling to make ends meet with 10,000 liras per month."

Ahmet Hakan, director of the newspaper Hurriyet, contends in an op-ed that "Ekrem İmamoğlu and Mansur Yavaş have become the vanguards of Turkey's political stage," highlighting Erdoğan's pledge not to oppose the people as the paramount secret.

Two options
Barış Terkoğlu, columnist for the Cumhuriyet newspaper, posits that "Erdoğan faces two choices. Either he'll persist with the policies that brought him to this juncture, further tightening the tap he believes he's fixing, thereby precipitating his downfall. Or he'll heed the message the people conveyed through their vote and cease constructing a system around himself. Of course, he'll bear the brunt of defeat within the Nationalist Movement Party and witness the demise of the People's Alliance he's aligned with."

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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