Second time is not a charm for President Erdogan and the AKP’s Istanbul hopes

The controversial re-run of Istanbul’s municipal election has turned up a more decisive win for Ekrem Imamoglu, the candidate representing the long-irrelevant Republican People’s Party (CHP). This time there was no ambiguity: Imamoglu received 54% of the vote, beating the AKP’s Binali Yildirim by 775,000 votes. In March his margin of victory was much slimmer at around 13,000 votes.

The result is not exactly surprising. The initial CHP victory in March came amid mounting concerns over the economy and, to a lesser degree, AKP’s deepening dominance over all aspects of Turkish political life. The annulment and rerun of the election only served to confirm fears of a democratic drift. It also gave other opposition candidates an opportunity to bow out of the race and clear the way for Imamoglu, which is exactly what happened. Even Selahattin Demirtas, the jailed leader of the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), called for his supporters to support Imamoglu. The endorsement goes a long way in a city where over 20% of the population is Kurdish; many of these voters stayed home the first time around.