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A New Era of Democracy in Istanbul

Why Istanbul’s mayorship is important to the future of Turkey


What's going on?

June 23, 2019, marked a historic victory for democracy in Turkey as opposition party candidate Ekrem Imamoglu won mayorship of Istanbul – for the second time this year. His initial victory in March, secured by a narrow margin of 13,000 votes was short-lived as opponents called for a re-run due to alleged voting irregularities. Hence, re-election took place in June where Imamoglu again defeated frontrunner Binali Yildirim by 800,000 votes, a margin almost sixty times the first. This marks the first time in 25 years that the ruling party AKP (Justice and Development Party) has been unseated, and it may just be the beginning of a political revolution in Turkey.


Ekrem Imamoglu’s victory came as a major setback to Turkish president Tayyip Erdoğan. As the leader of the AKP, his ally’s loss is a loss for himself politically and symbolically after previously saying, “whoever wins Istanbul, wins Turkey.” The statement is true as Istanbul is host to almost a fifth of Turkey’s population and exists as the country’s business hub. President Erdoğan, whose political career began in the city, not only faces a declining voter base but new parties looking to challenge his influence.


However, the AKP continues to consolidate more power towards themselves and shows no sign of losing its dominant foothold in Turkish politics. With cities such as Istanbul, Izmir, and Ankara now under the opposition’s control, Turkey’s rising population is optimistic and hopeful for positive changes that would bring equality and peace throughout the nation.


An Istanbul mayoral election is rattling Turkey’s politics