Back in March, citizens in Turkey went to the polls for their latest series of national elections. The presidency wasn’t up for grabs, but they were electing regional legislators, mayors and other local positions. In a shocking turn of events, the part of the Tyrant of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, narrowly lost the election for mayor in Istanbul, one of the largest population centers. Erdogan was clearly unhappy about this turn of events so he did what any freedom and democracy loving ruler would do. He had the mayor thrown out of office and ordered another election be held.
Yesterday, the Turks returned to the polls in Istanbul as ordered and held the do-over vote. Surprise, surprise. In what the BBC is describing as a “disastrous loss,” Erdogan’s chosen candidate was defeated again by an even wider margin. Ouch. That’s gonna leave a mark.
As the scale of Ekrem Imamoglu’s victory became clear, his supporters thronged his election headquarters. Lining the street outside was a row of cameras. Among them: Turkey’s state broadcaster TRT, heavily under the thumb of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
A woman approached, waving her Turkish flag bearing the face of Mr Imamoglu at the TRT cameraman. “Now are you going to film us?”, she cried, “we’re here, now show we are!”
It encapsulated the feeling of an opposition that has been stifled for years, all the organs of the Turkish state controlled by Turkey’s powerful, polarising leader. Finally, the other side of this country feels as though the hand that has covered its mouth has been unclasped.
This has to be a stinging blow for Erdogan. He was born and raised in Istanbul and served as the mayor himself back in the 90s. His AKP Party has controlled the region for decades and his hand-picked candidate to be Mayor was expected to do the same.
If you read the BBC analysis, you’ll see that members of the opposition party are already talking about the beginning of the end of Erdogan’s rule. If his party can lose Istanbul, the thinking goes, his support will probably be on the decline around other parts of the country. The next national elections aren’t scheduled until 2023, but the opposition may be able to force a new vote sooner than that.
But can Turkey actually get rid of their Tyrant by simply voting him out? Erdogan has managed to rewrite the country’s constitution, vesting nearly all power in his office. The military answers directly to him and any perceived opponents in their ranks have been weeded out since the coup attempt a couple of years back. He controls all of the remaining media in the country, a fact that allows him to heavily sway public opinion.
And if even with all of that going for him, it looks like he might still lose, he would likely move to postpone the elections further. Even worse, if he calls the election and loses, he could simply refuse to step down and declare martial law. The people of Turkey have lived to see interesting times. Let’s hope they survive the process.