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Türkiye's opposition set to hold power in key cities after elections


 , Updated 11:01, 01-Apr-2024

Türkiye's main opposition, the Republican People's Party (CHP), is set to retain its control over key cities as it led in local elections, including in the country's largest city, Istanbul and the capital, Ankara, initial results showed on Sunday.

With most of the votes counted, Ekrm Imamoglu, the incumbent Istanbul mayor representing the CHP, led by 10 percentage points in the mayoral race in Istanbul, as they retained Ankara and gained 15 other mayoral seats in cities nationwide, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency.

In all, the CHP won the municipalities of 36 of Türkiye's 81 provinces, and gained 37 percent of the votes nationwide, compared to 36 percent for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), marking the CHP's greatest electoral victory since Erdogan came to power two decades ago.

Erdogan called it a "turning point" in a post-midnight address at AKP headquarters in Ankara.

He acknowledged the electoral setback and said his alliance will take steps to address the message from voters, including pressing ahead with an economic program introduced last year that aims to combat inflation.

A total of 61 million eligible voters, including 1 million first-timers, got to choose provincial mayors, as well as provincial council members and other local officials on Sunday.

The nationwide local elections were seen as a barometer of Erdogan's popularity as he sought to win back control of key urban areas which he lost to the opposition in elections five years ago.

In 2019, Imamoglu had dealt Erdogan a sharp electoral blow when he first won Istanbul, ending 25 years of rule in the city by AKP and its Islamist predecessors, including Erdogan's own run as its mayor in the 1990s. CHP also won Ankara that year.

The president struck back in 2023 by securing reelection and a parliamentary majority with his nationalist allies.

Sunday's election result came as a boost for the opposition, which was left divided and demoralized after 2023's defeat to Erdogan and AKP.

Meanwhile, an Imamoglu victory would make him a potential opponent to Erdogan's ruling AK Party in the next presidential election in 2028.

(With input from agencies)

(Cover: Ekrem Imamoglu, mayor of Istanbul and candidate of the Republican People's Party cast his vote with his family in local elections in Istanbul, Türkiye, March 31, 2024. /CFP)

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