The Turkish press: The worst loss in Erdogan's political career

Turkey is at a "turning point", President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after the opposition swept his party in local elections in Istanbul, the country's iconic metropolis, and other major cities.

The results showed the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) capturing major cities and Anatolian provinces that had been strongholds for Erdogan's Islamic conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Major urban centers Istanbul, the capital Ankara, Adana, Bursa and Antalya are among the municipalities that elected CHP mayors on March 31, less than a year after the collapse of the opposition in a presidential election that did not portend such a resounding success.

Observers called the election "Erdogan's worst electoral defeat" since his party took power in 2002.

Many pointed to 67% inflation and the sharp devaluation of the Turkish lira over the past year as reasons.

The pro-government dailies "Hurriet" and "Yeni Sefah" this morning highlighted the "message" of the voters to the current rulers.

The result "can only be explained by economics," wrote Abdulkadir Selvi, a Hurriyet columnist considered close to Erdogan's camp.

"A new wind is blowing in Turkey and the government is now facing a new political equation," he added.

Erdogan himself acknowledged a "turning point" and promised to "respect the nation's decision."

"Revolution at the ballot box"

The secular nationalist daily Sozju, which often opposes Erdogan, wrote a "revolution at the ballot box" on its front page, while the main opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet hailed a "historic victory".

A victory for the AKP was expected in the economic and political centers of power Istanbul and Ankara, where the opposition had already made major gains in 2019, but observers saw wider discontent against Erdogan as "the strongest in almost 50 years", redrawing the electoral landscape card.

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, the champion of the opposition after taking the mayoral seat in Istanbul five years ago in a hard-fought battle, now seems all set to run for president in 2028. What's more, to win.

The vote "marks the end of democratic erosion in Turkey and the rebirth of democracy," Imamoglu told supporters overnight, stressing that his victory had "tremendous significance."

In Ankara, CHP Mayor Mansur Yavash also strengthened his stable position, surpassing his AKP opponent.

"We will see a race between Imamoglu and Yavash" for leadership, writes "Hurriet" commentator Selvi.

"Imamoglu is Erdogan's opponent in the country's next national elections," Soner Çagaptai of the Washington Institute said in a post on the X social network.

The mayor of Istanbul "has a chance to become the president of Turkey ... Turkey never fails to surprise - the game is already underway," he added.

Erdogan, who became mayor of Istanbul in 1994 and continued as prime minister in 2003 before becoming president in 2014, said in early March that these municipal elections would be his last.

The 70-year-old leader told his disappointed supporters overnight that the remaining four years until the next presidential vote "must not be lost". /BGNES, AFP