The second defeat of Turkish President Erdogan's party in the rerun of the Istanbul mayoral election on June 23rd, was a new blow to his efforts to control the Turkish state and a sign of the uncertainty of the future of his political project.
The editorial on the Ahval news website described the loss in Istanbul as a "slap" in Erdogan’s face. It said that the Turkish president and his ruling party, decided to cancel the March 31st election results in Turkey’s most important city (Istanbul) on no real legal basis, as he believed that the vote in the rerun would serve as a presidential referendum.
The importance of the sprawling mega-city of Istanbul is due to its financial and cultural status. In addition it is home to almost one in five Turkish citizens and produces almost a third of the country’s GDP.
Ahval added that a large majority of potential voters performed their democratic duty in the vote on June 23rd, with Erdogan’s policies in their minds. For that reason the vote was considered, “a referendum on a leader who in the last quarter of a century has risen to power and ended up a near-dictator,” the website said.
It added it was also a referendum on his vision for government, his style, methods and intentions but in the end the president received a “kick from the ballots.”
Experts consider Istanbul as microcosm of Turkey and the vote in this important city gives a signal to the whole country. In the March 31st vote mayor-elect, Ekrem Imamoglu won the election with about 13,000 votes, but on June 23rd he achieved more than 800.000.
The importance of the mayoral revote in Istanbul also attracted the attention of major international media outlets, which saw the victory of the opposition candidate, Imamoglu, as a strong blow to Erdogan.
Imamoglu’s victory was labelled as a crushing defeat for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
The New York Times wrote, “Turkey’s President Looks Headed for Stinging Defeat in Istanbul Election Redo,” describing the ballots as the biggest defeat of Erdogan’s political career. Meanwhile, the Washington Post said Imamoglu’s win is, "a potent sign that Erdogan’s political fortunes may have ebbed.
" The UK Guardian considered the vote as an embarrassment for the president, as the AKP lost Istanbul for the second time in spite of heavy campaigning all over the country.
The Financial Times referred to the Turkish president's famous quote, “Losing Istanbul means losing Turkey.” It added that Erdogan’s gamble, “backfired spectacularly.”
Also a day before the revote CNN said that losing Turkey’s financial powerhouse would turn out to be a personal issue for President Erdogan, who sees Istanbul as the crown jewel of Turkish politics.