ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Through his 16 years in power, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has been able to rely on the pious electorate of Istanbul’s Eyup district, where for centuries Ottoman sultans received their ceremonial sword after ascending to the throne.
But on Sunday, it turned its back on his Islamist-rooted AK Party (AKP) for the first time since 2002 and helped opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu become mayor – a historic reverse that could also spell trouble for Erdogan in Turkey’s Anatolian heartland, where his grip on power could also be vulnerable.
Voters - Eyup - AKP - Erdogan - Campaign
Several voters in Eyup who ditched the AKP criticized Erdogan’s campaign rhetoric as divisive and – perhaps more alarming for the president as the country grapples with economic hardship and a debilitating row with the United States – praised Imamoglu’s strong rapport with Turks of all kinds.
“Imamoglu has a stance which is more embracing of society. He opened himself up and accepted everyone with encompassing and constructive language,” said retired teacher Ahmet Cetin, 57, adding that he and his wife used to back the AKP.
Turnaround - Eyup - Imamoglu - Practicising - Muslim
The abrupt turnaround in Eyup, where Imamoglu – a practicising Muslim but belonging to the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) – took 54% of the vote, was mirrored in other traditional AKP strongholds across the city.
There is speculation, thus far dismissed by Imamoglu, that the 49-year-old could use Istanbul as a platform to challenge Erdogan nationally as the CHP’s future presidential candidate.
Cetin - Election - Success - Imamoglu - Affinity
Cetin said that, if he was to build on his election success, Imamoglu needed above all to retain affinity with voters in Anatolia, the territory in Asia that makes up most of Turkey and where people are more conservative.
For one such Eyup voter, Ayse Esintokan from Kahramanmaras in southern Turkey, he is already doing that.
Way - Someone - Anatolia
“We like the way he speaks, as someone from Anatolia like us....
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