Opposition Party Wins Mayoral Race in Istanbul in Massive Blow to Erdogan
- Former Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim conceded to opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu in a re-run election for mayor of Istanbul Sunday.
- Yildirim had been championed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his defeat comes as a stunning blow to the president, who many believe is losing his extensive grip on power in the country.
- Imamoglu had previously won the same election back in March by a slim margin of 13,000 votes, but Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) called for a re-run, citing voting irregularities.
- Imamoglu won Sunday’s election by more than 800,000 votes, representing a dramatic political shift in Turkey’s largest city, which has been under AKP control for 25 years.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suffered what experts are calling his biggest political defeat ever Sunday when his candidate for the mayor of Istanbul conceded a highly anticipated re-run election.
Binali Yildirim, a former prime minister and close ally of Erdogan formally conceded the election late Sunday after polls showed that opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu received 54 percent of the vote.
“As of now, my competitor Imamoglu is leading,” Yildirim said in a televised concession speech. “I congratulate him, wish him success. I wish our friend Ekrem Imamoglu will bring good services to Istanbul.”
Imamoglu celebrated his win during a news conference last night, telling reporters, “16 million Istanbul residents refreshed our belief in democracy and confidence in justice.”
“I am ready to work with you in harmony,” he continued. “I put myself up for that, and I announce this in front of all Istanbul people.”
Erdogan, for his part, congratulated Imamoglu on Twitter, adding that he wished the election result “will be beneficial for our Istanbul.”
While Imamoglu’s win represents a decisive and landmark victory, it is technically not the first time he has won the election for mayor of Istanbul.
He first was elected mayor of Istanbul on March 31, by a small margin of around 13,000 votes. However, Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, or AKP, contested the results, claiming that votes had been stolen and voting officials had not been legally approved.
Turkey’s High Election Council responded by annulling the election and ordering a do-over in a rare move that greatly angered the opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP.
The CHP condemned the move, arguing that it undermined the democratic foundations of Turkey and that it was clearly just a power move by the AKP to try to maintain their foothold in Istanbul.
The CHP also claimed that the High Election Council’s members were beholden to the AKP for their jobs and so they could be easily manipulated.
However, holding the election again appears to have backfired on Erdogan and the AKP. Imamoglu won Sunday’s election by over 800,000 votes, a huge victory compared to the 13,000 he got last time.
Additionally, voter turnout even went up one percentage point from the March election.
Erdogan’s Decreasing Power
The increased voter turnout and the massive support for the opposition party are hugely significant because the AKP has held power in Istanbul for 25 years.
Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city and its main commercial hub, which alone makes the election a big defeat for the AKP on a populous level. It is also a massive blow to Erdogan personally because he is from Istanbul and considers it his political base
Erdogan even started his political career there, serving as the mayor himself. Now, experts are saying that this could be a sign that his long-running grip on power is weakening.
Erdogan has been the ruler of Turkey since 2003, first serving as prime minister and then as president. He has largely been perceived as an invincible strongman and has been considered by many to be Turkey’s most dominant politician since its founder almost a century ago.
During his rule, Erdogan has significantly expanded his authoritarian reach by strengthening his own powers under Turkey’s Constitution. He has also consolidated his power by jailing journalists, isolating opponents, and purging Turkey’s police, the military, and courts.
Despite all of that, Erdogan has largely been popular. His party has a lot of support among religious and conservative populations, and under his rule, Turkey’s economy has grown significantly.
However, recently, Turkey has been experiencing an economic recession and a financial crisis. This has shaken Erdogan’s support significantly, along with that fact that some voters are concerned about his efforts to increase his control over the government.
In fact, Istanbul is not the only place where Erdogan and his party are losing power. The AKP had a poor showing in many parts of Turkey in the March election.
Notably, the party also lost to the opposition in Ankara, the capital of Turkey and its second biggest city.
The recent loss in Istanbul really cannot be understated. Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city by far, with a population of more than 15 million people, which is basically triple Ankara’s 5.4 million.
With the opposition also in control of Turkey’s third largest city, Izmir, Turkey’s three largest cities are now fully in the hands of opposition parties. As a result, analysts and experts say this will likely usher in a new chapter in Turkish politics.
Some members of the AKP could splinter off and even form new parties. Others who previously had supported Erdogan or had been allies could run against him in 2023.
Additionally, the election in Istanbul could trigger a cabinet reshuffle in the capital, as well as a shift in Turkey’s foreign policy.
Regarding foreign policy, the election also comes amid tense relations between Erdogan and the U.S.
The Donald Trump administration objected to Turkey re-doing the Istanbul election, arguing that it disrupted important negotiations on Syria and other issues. The U.S. has also objected to Turkey’s plans to install Russian missile systems, over which the U.S. has even threatened sanctions.
Turkey’s close economic ties with Iran are also not doing them any favors in the eyes of the Trump administration.
Erdogan is set to meet with Trump at the Group of 20 summit meeting this week. Already, Erdogan is trying to shift the focus of the election, outlining his upcoming diplomatic trips.
Meanwhile, in Istanbul, tens of thousands of people celebrated Imamoglu’s win. Fireworks were set off, and the streets of Istanbul were packed with his supporters waving national flags and hanging out of car windows. Street parties continued on into of Monday morning.
Many believe the election has re-invigorated the young people in Istanbul. One university student told BCC, “Many young people desperately want to leave Turkey, but now, we might consider staying here. We are hopeful once again.”
However, there are others who are not happy with the outcome of the election. Another student told Al Jazeera that Imamoglu was less qualified than his opponent. “People just voted for the promises […] Because they appeal to them,” the student said. “But I don’t think they’ll be able to get what they want from Imamoglu.”
Additionally, throughout the whole election, Turkey’s state-run media outlets have been openly against Imamoglu, and have been quick to attack him while also reporting favorable news about his opponent.
Regardless, many think this is the beginning of the end for Erdogan, who himself once said, “Whoever wins Istanbul, wins Turkey.”
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Al Jazeera) (Reuters)
95-Year-Old Woman Dies After Police Tases Her in Nursing Home
The officer involved was suspended with pay and charged with assault.
A 95-year-old Australian woman whom police tasered in a nursing home last week has reportedly died from her injuries.
Clare Nowland, who had dementia and required a walking frame to stand up and move, was living at the Yallambee Lodge in Cooma in southeastern Australia.
At about 4:15 a.m. on May 17, police and paramedics responded to a report of a woman standing outside her room with a steak knife.
They encountered Nowland, then reportedly tried to negotiate with her for several minutes, but she didn’t drop the knife.
The five-foot-two, 95-pound woman walked toward the two officers “at a slow pace,” police said at a news conference, so one of them tasered her.
She fell to the floor and reportedly suffered a fractured skull and a severe brain bleed, causing her to be hospitalized in critical condition.
Nowland passed away in a hospital surrounded by her family, the New South Wales police confirmed in a statement today.
After a week-long investigation, the police force also said that the senior constable involved would appear in court next week to face charges of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and common assault.
NSW police procedure states that tasers should not be used against elderly or disabled people absent exceptional circumstances.
Following the incident, community members, activists, and disability rights advocates expressed bewilderment and anger at what they called an unnecessary use of force, and some are now questioning why law enforcement took so long to prosecute the officer involved.
See what others are saying: (Reuters) (The New York Times) (CNN)
U.K. Police Face Backlash After Arresting Anti-Monarchy Protesters
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that some of the arrests “raise questions” and “investigations are ongoing.”
The Public Order Act
A controversial protest crackdown law in the U.K. is facing criticism after dozens of anti-monarchy protesters were arrested during the coronation ceremony in London over the weekend.
The law, dubbed the “Public Order Act” was passed roughly a week ahead of the coronation for King Charles III. It gives police more power to restrict protesters and limits the tactics protesters can use in public spaces. It was condemned by human rights groups upon its passing, and is facing a new round of heat after 52 people were arrested over coronation protests on Saturday.
In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said protesters were arrested for public order offenses, breach of the peace and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. The group said it gave advance warning that its “tolerance for any disruption, whether through protest or otherwise, will be low and that we would deal robustly with anyone intent on undermining the celebration.”
It is currently unclear how many of those arrested were detained specifically for violating the Public Order Act, however, some of those arrested believe the new law was used against them.
“Make no mistake. There is no longer a right to peaceful protest in the UK,” Graham Smith, the CEO of anti-monarchy group Republic tweeted after getting arrested. “I have been told many times the monarch is there to defend our freedoms. Now our freedoms are under attack in his name.”
An Attempt to “Diminish” Protests
During a BBC Radio interview, Smith also said he believes the dozens of arrests were premeditated.
“There was nothing that we did do that could possibly justify even being detained and arrested and held,” Smith claimed.
“The whole thing was a deliberate attempt to disrupt and diminish our protest.”
Yasmine Ahmed, the U.K. Director of Human Rights Watch, also tweeted that the arrests were “disgraceful.”
“These are scenes you’d expect to see in Russia not the UK,” she wrote.
When asked about the controversy, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters officers should do “what they think is best” in an apparent show of support for the Metropolitan Police.
For his part, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he is looking into the matter.
“Some of the arrests made by police as part of the Coronation event raise questions and whilst investigations are ongoing, I’ve sought urgent clarity from Met leaders on the action taken,” Khan tweeted.
See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (CNN) (The Washington Post)
Foreign Nationals Make Mad Dash out of Sudan as Conflict Rages
The conflict’s death toll has surpassed 420, with nearly 4,000 people wounded.
As the 10-day-long power struggle between rival generals tore Sudan apart, foreign governments with citizens in the country scrambled to evacuate them over the weekend.
On Sunday, U.S. special forces landed in the capital Khartoum and carried out nearly 100 American diplomats along with their families and some foreign nationals on helicopters.
An estimated 16,000 Americans, however, remain in the country and U.S. officials said in a statement that a broader evacuation mission would be too dangerous.
Christopher Maier, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity warfare, said in a statement that the Pentagon may assist U.S. citizens find safe routes out of Sudan.
“[The Defense Department] is at present considering actions that may include use of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to be able to observe routes and detect threats,” he said.
Germany and France also reportedly pulled around 700 people out of the country.
More countries followed with similar efforts, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Canada, China, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Indonesia.
Yesterday, a convoy carrying some 700 United Nations, NGO, and embassy staff drove to Port Sudan, a popular extraction point now that the airport in Khartoum has closed due to fighting.
Reports of gunmen prowling the capital streets and robbing people trying to escape, as well as looters breaking into abandoned homes and shops, have persuaded most residents to stay indoors.
Heavy gunfire, airstrikes, and artillery shelling have terrorized the city despite several proposed ceasefires.
Over the weekend, the reported death toll topped 420, with nearly 4,000 people injured, though both numbers are likely to be undercounted.