Turkish opposition leads in vote to run Istanbul and other key cities, preliminary results show

Turkish opposition leads in vote to run Istanbul and other key cities, preliminary results show

With nearly 60% of the ballot boxes counted, incumbent Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, of the Republican People's Party, or CHP, was leading in Istanbul, Turkey's largest city and economic hub, according to state broadcaster TRT.

Mansur Yavas, the mayor of the capital Ankara, retained his seat with a large margin, the results indicated.

The CHP was leading in 36 of Turkey's 81 provinces, according to the results reported by TRT.

The vote was seen as a barometer of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s popularity as he sought to win back control of key urban areas he lost to the opposition in elections five years ago.

The CHP's victory in Ankara and Istanbul in 2019 over Erdogan's AKP had shattered his aura of invincibility. A six-party opposition alliance that was led by CHP disintegrated after it failed to oust Erdogan in last year's election, unable to capitalize on the economic crisis and the government’s initially poor response to last year's devastating earthquake that killed more than 53,000 people.

Yet, in Sunday's vote, Imamoglu — a popular figure touted as a possible future challenger to Erdogan — still ran without the support of some of the parties that helped him to victory in 2019. Both the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party and the nationalist IYI Party fielded their own candidates in the race.

Some 61 million people, including more than a million first-time voters, were eligible to cast ballots for all metropolitan municipalities, town and district mayorships as well as neighbourhood administrations.

Turnout was around 76%, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency, compared to 87% last year.

Analysts said a strong showing for Erdogan’s party would have hardened his resolve to usher in a new constitution — one that would reflect his conservative values and allow him to rule beyond 2028 when his current term ends.

Erdogan, who has presided over Turkey for more than two decades — as prime minister since 2003 and president since 2014 — has been advocating for a new constitution that would put family values at the forefront.