Opposition revival in Turkey’s political churn

Opposition revival in Turkey’s political churn

Nine months after losing the presidential elections, the Opposition in Turkey is back in the game, winning a majority of provinces in the local body polls. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party failed to win Istanbul, where one-fifth of Turkey lives, for the second consecutive time since 2019. Ekrem Imamoglu, leader of the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP), won the Istanbul mayor’s seat the second time in a row, making him potentially the main rival to the AKP nominee when presidential polls are held next in 2028. As per the Turkish constitution, Erdogan, who will complete three terms in the president’s office by then, will be ineligible to stand for president.

Turkish President and leader of Justice and Development (AK) Party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (AFP)

Erdogan, a former Istanbul mayor, has been accused of running an increasingly authoritarian regime that has jailed many of its critics. His followers project him as a State-builder comparable to Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, and he harbours visions of reviving Turkey’s Ottoman legacy, including becoming the pre-eminent power in West Asia, by rejecting Ataturk’s secular heritage and reimagining Turkey as an Islamic nation. This enabled him to dislodge the old ruling elite and ride a surge of the subalterns, who identified with his faith-centred politics. However, an economy in decline, highlighted by high inflation and low employment opportunities seems to have turned the tide against the AKP. Importantly, the Islamist Yeniden Refah (New Welfare) Party, founded in 2018 by Fatih Erbakan, the son of Islamist leader Necmettin Erbakan, who inspired Erdogan, has won over 6% of the vote. Clearly, the AKP’s defeat in the key cities has also to do with its failure to consolidate its core base, some of which has moved to the Yeniden Refah Party. Imamoglu, 52, appears to have the stature, popularity and ambition to unite a fractious Opposition. But he should know the churn in Turkey is also producing new Right-wing voices.

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