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June 25, 2019 11:01 am

Erdogan Suffers ‘Huge Blow’ as Turkish Opposition Wins Istanbul Mayor Race

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he addresses AK Party and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) supporters during a rally for the upcoming local elections, in Istanbul, Turkey March 24, 2019. Photo: REUTERS/Umit Bektas. – Turkey’s opposition candidate won the mayoral election rerun in Istanbul on Monday, handing longtime Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a stinging defeat and raising questions over whether or not this could spell the beginning of the end of his rule.

Harold Rhode, a former adviser on Islamic affairs and specialist on Turkey in the US Department of Defense and now a distinguished senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute think tank, told JNS that this is “a huge blow” for Erdogan, as Istanbul is the economic and cultural center of the country.

When asked how Erdogan could let the opposition win seeing as he has so much power, Rhode said, “In the first election [back in May], Erdogan’s AKP [party] thought they had it, and then they found an excuse for a re-vote [when they lost].”

Ekrem Imamoglu of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) got about 54 percent of the vote, more than in the previous victory three months ago, Reuters reported. The previous election was canceled after protests by Erdogan’s AKP claiming voting irregularities.

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“Erodogan figured he could manipulate the re-vote, but there was around a 800,000 vote difference and [there was] not much he could do to change that,” said Rhode. As fallout from this loss, within Erdogan’s Islamist AKP “there are now rumblings among factions that may consider breaking off from the party,” added Rhode.

If this were to occur, it could become a serious threat to Erdogan.

Rhodes said that Erdogan, like other politicians in the region, may have overstayed his welcome, with the people now turning against his dictatorial rule.

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday that Turkey had purchased the Russian S-400 missile-defense system despite pressure by the United States to cancel the deal.

“No matter what sanctions decision, no matter which statement comes from the United States, we have already bought the S-400s,” Çavuşoglu told reporters, according to the Turkish Hürriyet Daily News. “Now we are talking about when the S-400s will be delivered to Turkey. It is not possible for us to give up on the purchase of the S-400.”

The United States warned on Thursday that sanctions against Turkey for planning to acquire the S-400 Russian missile-defense system is a “very viable” option, despite a threat by Erdogan to retaliate were that to happen.

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