Turkish President Erdogan Faces Huge Defeat in Local Elections

The main opposition party to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party retained its control over key cities while making significant gains elsewhere in the country’s March 31 local elections, dealing a heavy blow to Erdogan who sought to retake control of Turkey’s urban areas, the Associated Press reported.

In total, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) won the cities in 36 of the country’s 81 provinces and gained 37 percent votes nationwide compared to the ruling party’s 36 percent, marking the largest victory for CHP since Erdogan took power two decades ago.

The Turkish president acknowledged the setback in a balcony speech from the presidential palace.

Erdogan said the ruling party suffered “a loss of altitude” throughout the country, adding that voters had sent a “message” that the ruling party must “analyze” through “courageous” self-criticism. He vowed that his party would “correct our mistakes” and “redress” any shortcomings.

The Turkish president also vowed to move forward with the economic policies he launched last year to combat the country’s high inflation.

The March 31 local elections were a boost for the opposition party which was left demoralized and divided following its defeat to Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the May 28 presidential and parliamentary elections.

About 61 million, including over a million first-time voters, were eligible to vote for mayors and local administrations in cities, towns, and districts throughout the country. The state-run news agency Anadolu said turnout was about 76 percent, an 11-point drop from last year’s elections.

According to analysts, a victory for Erdogan’s ruling party would have solidified his efforts to introduce a new constitution that would reflect his fundamental Islamic values and clear the way for him to stay in office beyond 2028 when his current presidential term ends.

Erdogan, who first served as Turkey’s prime minister starting in 2003, was elected president in 2014.