ISTANBUL — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey was confronting recriminations within his governing party and the wider circle of his supporters on Monday as the scale of the defeat of his candidate in the Istanbul mayoral race became clear.
The opposition candidate, Ekrem Imamoglu, emerged as the landslide winner of the mayoral election redo against Mr. Erdogan’s candidate, Binali Yildirim, according to preliminary results announced on Monday by Sadi Guven, the head of the High Election Council, confirming a significant defeat for the governing party.
Mr. Erdogan will now have his hands full in containing the fallout from the electoral defeat, the biggest of his political career, which came after his disastrous decision to push for a rerun of the mayoral election following Mr. Imamoglu’s victory in the first vote, in March.
The loss was a stinging one for Mr. Erdogan. Istanbul is his hometown, and his Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., has dominated the city for 25 years, but anger over his decision to pursue a new vote and frustration over a weakening economy took their toll, even as he has sought to crack down on the opposition.
In the election, held on Sunday, Mr. Imamoglu won with 54 percent of the vote, compared with 45 percent for his opponent, Mr. Guven said. The margin of victory for Mr. Imamoglu was larger than in the March election — he won by over 800,000 votes, compared with a slim, 13,000-vote victory in the first ballot — as was turnout, up one percentage point, at 84 percent.
The official results will be announced after a period for any complaints to be submitted and examined, but for now, the margin of victory was taken by commentators and politicians on all sides as a sign of voter outrage at the second vote.
“Slap of the people,” Evrensel, a leftist newspaper that is frequently critical of Mr. Erdogan, announced on its front page. “Istanbul made its choice,” ran the headlines in three main pro-government newspapers.
Image President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, center right, will have his hands full in containing the fallout from the electoral defeat. Credit Kemal Aslan/Reuters Complaints had already been building within Mr. Erdogan’s party after its loss in the March election and the subsequent cancellation of that vote.
“Earthquake at the ballot box,” ran the front-page headline of Karar newspaper, which was founded by three years ago by journalists who had once been close to the A.K.P. government.
Political analysts said Mr. Erdogan was likely to take a lower profile at home in the immediate aftermath of the defeat.
“The big question is: Will he ultimately stick to the ultranationalist alliance and continue the paranoid security state or reverse course and attempt at reform?” said Asli Aydintasbas, a senior fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations.
The largest challenge for Mr. Erdogan is a movement led by a former A.K.P. president, Abdullah Gul, and a former finance minister, Ali Babacan, to form a breakaway party. Both men support many of the ideals of the A.K.P., notably conservative pro-market policies with social support for the party’s lower-income political base.
Mr. Erdogan is likely to seek some changes, in part to weaken any challenge from the breakaway group, but that could destabilize his alliance with Devlet Bahceli and the Nationalist Movement Party, which he has relies on to secure the presidency and a majority in Parliament.
Pro-government columnists were already moving to divert the mood, writing in the morning newspapers that Mr. Erdogan would turn to foreign policy to enhance his image. That suggested that far from tempering his stance after such a defeat, the president may project a more combative attitude in discussions abroad.
The pro-government newspaper, Aksam, had Turkey’s dispute with the United States over its purchase of the Russian S400 missile system as its lead story, with a headline that read “S400s a matter of sovereignty.”
Image Mr. Imamoglu won with 54 percent of the vote, compared with 45 percent for his opponent. Credit Chris Mcgrath/Getty Images “Today the most common feeling among the people is the betrayal by their historical allies, the U.S., France, the U.K. and Germany,” Hakki Ocal wrote in the pro-government Daily Sabah. Picking up the campaign slogan of the new mayor, he wrote, “Turkey has risen up this beautiful morning, believing everything will be all right, and turns a watchful eye to its region.”
One of the most strident voices in the presidential circle, the columnist Hilal Kaplan, signaled that the political fight for Turkey was by no means over.
The A.K.P. alliance may have lost Istanbul and several of Turkey’s biggest big cities to the opposition People’s Republican Party, or C.H.P., she reminded readers, but it won presidential and parliamentary elections last year and general municipal elections in March with 52 to 54 percent of the vote.
“Moving forward, we will watch the C.H.P. leadership trying to overcome the challenges of being in charge and governing with a multitude of partners,” she wrote. “We will also see how the A.K. Party will perform as Istanbul’s opposition party.”
Anger among A.K.P. members and former supporters of the party at the electoral disaster was evident on social media.
Kemal Ozturk, a former columnist for the pro-government Yeni Safak newspaper who is well-connected in government circles, said the self-interest of the circle around Mr. Erdogan had come back to hurt them.
“They did such vile things as they considered everything permissible for their small interests that they stained, they damaged a huge community’s religion, cause and faith,” he posted on Twitter. “This is the real thing we should be enraged about. Losing Istanbul is small in comparison to that.”
Mustafa Yeneroglu, an A.K.P. lawmaker, posted on Twitter that, “We lost the moral superiority.”
“We can again be the hope as we do sincere self-criticism,” he wrote. “For that, we should give up the past and the myths and look to the future and the dreams of the youth; focus on rationality, superiority of the law, separation of powers and fundamental rights.”
LINK ORIGINAL: nytimes.com