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Last May, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey won another term as head of state, causing concern among his critics about his potential move towards autocracy. However, this past weekend, the opposition in Turkey achieved unexpected victories in local elections across the country. These wins have given the opposition more control over the country’s cities and may act as a check on Erdogan’s power. Additionally, opposition leaders now have the opportunity to use the large budgets of major cities to build their profiles before the next presidential election in 2028.

Erdogan, who has been a dominant politician in Turkey for over two decades, has been accused of moving the country towards one-man rule by silencing the news media and exploiting government institutions for his party’s gain. Despite his success in previous elections, recent economic troubles have contributed to voter dissatisfaction. Inflation and a cost of living crisis have eroded citizens’ purchasing power, leading some to stay home during the recent elections and contributing to opposition victories.

The largest opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, now controls 35 cities out of 81 in Turkey, including six of the country’s ten largest cities. Erdogan’s party, on the other hand, only managed to secure one major city from the opposition in the recent elections. Many attribute the opposition’s success to an economic crisis that has left Erdogan with limited resources to protect voters’ wallets.

The economic squeeze forced Erdogan to adopt more orthodox economic policies. Despite his party’s losses, he is likely to continue with these policies in the hopes that they will eventually pay off. The victories by the opposition candidates are seen as a delayed response to the economic crisis and might lead to increased pressure on Erdogan to address economic issues more effectively.

The recent victories have reinvigorated opposition voters and strengthened their leaders’ platforms to influence policy in Turkey. This is particularly evident in cities like Ankara and Istanbul, where opposition mayors won by significant margins. In Istanbul, Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu managed to defend his seat against a challenger backed by Erdogan, further solidifying his position as a potential presidential contender.

The outcome of the next election remains uncertain, with Erdogan’s current term lasting until 2028. However, speculation persists about potential legal avenues for him to remain in office beyond that. Alternatively, the opposition could push for early elections to capitalize on Erdogan’s perceived vulnerability following their recent successes at the ballot box. Regardless of the path forward, Turkey’s political landscape seems poised for further shifts and challenges in the coming years.

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