Having ruled Turkey as President since 2014 (and before that, Prime Minister since 2003), Erdoğan has finally seen his AK Party lose control of the national capital Ankara for the first time.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on April 1, 2019

Erdoğan’s party is also in trouble in Istanbul, with alternating claims that it has sealed a narrow victory and conceded defeat in the city.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) is the main opposition. Both the CHP and Erdoğan’s AK Party have claimed victory in Istanbul. The city is by far the largest in Turkey and is also the hometown of Erdoğan.

Human rights group have condemned Erdoğan’s rule

International observers, weary of Erdoğan ruling the nation with an iron fist, have been watching the elections intently. As Human Rights Watch reported, the local elections “felt more like a referendum on the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan than a poll for municipal government.”

He has been condemned as a ruler flirting with dictatorship. After a military coup failed to remove him in 2016, he has been even more brutal; the United Nations has reported he has detained an estimated 160,000 dissidents and political opponents in this time.

“History is being written in Ankara,” said CHP’s Deputy leader Haluk Koc outside the party’s base in Ankara. The opposition party has enjoyed a surge in popularity despite media coverage overwhelmingly supporting the incumbent President.

Soner Cagaptay, Director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The New York Times that losing Istanbul would be a “nuclear defeat for Erdoğan” and that defeat in Ankara “which is shorthand for political power and government, is a pretty significant loss.”

Erdoğan had been appearing at up to eight campaign rallies a day and telling supporters that the election was a battle for “national survival”.

Inflation has hit 20% in Turkey as its economy tanks

Turkey has endured a floundering economy in recent times, including double-digit inflation and price spikes for groceries. Erdoğan has tried to pin the severe downturn on its international enemies.

Turkish Political Analyst Taha Akyol said the nation’s economic woes have made the current election the “hardest” the President has faced. “The party is trying hard to stay away from discussing actual economic issues,” he said.

Erdoğan vowed to make the economy his main focus in the leadup to national elections scheduled for 2023. “We have a long period ahead where we will carry out economic reforms without compromising on the rules of the free-market economy,” he told thed media.

Last year’s national elections were a highly contentious affair and the current elections have also been marred by violence. Two members of the Felicity Party, a minor Islamist group, were allegedly shot dead by the relative of a rival party.

Another three people were reportedly killed in Gaziantep after fighting broke out. Overall, dozens of people have been injured in fights relating to various provincial elections.