Erdogan declares upcoming elections in Turkey to be his last

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said local elections scheduled for March 31 would be his last vote, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Friday.

Erdogan, modern Turkey’s most successful politician, has led the country for more than two decades. A winner of more than a dozen elections since 2002, Erdogan was re-elected for a five-year term during hotly contested elections in May 2023.

“This is a final for me, under the mandate given by the law this is my last election,” Erdogan said. “The result that will come out will be the transferring of a legacy to my siblings who will come after me,” he was cited as saying by Anadolu.

Turkish opposition in disarray

Disunity among Turkey’s opposition parties would have boosted President Tayyip Erdogan’s hopes that his AK Party can regain control of Istanbul in this month’s municipal elections, pollsters say, following his victory in last year’s presidential vote.

The outcome of the March 31 election in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, is seen as key in deciding the political fate of its mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu, 52, long touted as a potential leader of the main opposition CHP and possibly a future president.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan looks on as he delivers statements, in Budapest, Hungary, December 18, 2023 (credit: REUTERS/BERNADETT SZABO)

Five years ago, Imamoglu and the secularist CHP dealt Erdogan a heavy blow in municipal elections by winning control of Istanbul, the president’s home city, and the capital Ankara after 25 years of rule by the AKP and its Islamist predecessors.

But Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for nearly a quarter of a century, beat off a strong opposition challenge last May to win re-election as president, while the AKP and its allies secured another parliamentary majority.

The alliance that helped propel Imamoglu to victory in Istanbul has since collapsed, and his nationalist and pro-Kurdish allies are fielding their own candidates this month.

Recent polls point to a close race, with pollsters MAK this week showing 41.5% support for Imamoglu, just 1.5 points ahead of AKP candidate Murat Kurum. According to pollster Murat Gezici, Kurum had 44.1% support, ahead of Imamoglu’s 43.5%.

“The race is neck-and-neck, on a knife edge,” Ozer Sencar, chairman of pollsters Metropoll, told Reuters, emphasizing the importance of Istanbul for future national politics.

“If Ekrem Imamoglu wins the election in Istanbul and this election is not canceled by objections in some way, he will become the president (of Turkey) in 2028,” he said.