Turkey: Opposition wins Istanbul election

June 24, 2019
HDP co-chair Pervin Buldan votes in Istanbul. Image: HDP/Instagram

Republican People's Party (CHP) candidate Ekrem Imamoglu won the election for mayor of Istanbul on June 23. Imamoglu defeated the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidate Binali Yildirim.

This election was a re-run of the election held in March, which Imamoglu narrowly won. The AKP appealed that result, claiming fraud. This time Imamoglu won by a much bigger margin of 54% to 45%.

The CHP is often described as a social democratic party. It is also a Turkish nationalist party, with a history of hostility to the aspirations of the Kurdish people.

Nevertheless, Imamoglu was supported in these elections by the Peoples Democratic Party (HDP), a left-wing and pro-Kurdish party. The HDP argued that the defeat of the AKP in Istanbul would be a blow to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government — a coalition between the  Islamist AKP and the extreme chauvinist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

The AKP-MHP government has arrested tens of thousands of people for political reasons, including HDP members of parliament. It has sacked tens of thousands of workers from their jobs. It has waged war against the Kurdish people of eastern Turkey, even bombing Kurdish cities. It has also invaded parts of northern Syria and northern Iraq.

The HDP did not run its own candidate in the Istanbul elections, instead urging its supporters to vote for Imamoglu. A joint statement by HDP co-chairs Pervin Buldan and Sezai Temelli described this as a "tactical step". They said the HDP continues to follow a "third way", separate from both the CHP and AKP.

Commenting on the election result, Buldan said: "Kurds and the HDP are the winners today".

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