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Elections in Turkey Signal an End to the Presidential Party’s Influence

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Mayoral elections in Turkish cities do not usually grab the world’s attention.

But the defeat of the ruling party’s candidate for Istanbul mayor–once during its March election and then again, even more definitively in a June rematch–is a sign that Turkey’s most powerful political party is losing its influence after nearly two decades of control.

The party’s leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, himself has said many times, “If we lose Istanbul, we lose Turkey.”

All political movements eventually run out of steam. But Erdoğanism dramatically changed Turkey, diminishing its democracy. The crumbling of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party, known as AKP, will now change Turkey in other ways.

I’ve watched Turkish politics closely for three decades because of my work in the country training and consulting on education reform. As a Fulbright scholar, I lived in Turkey when Erdoğan first took power and consolidated control over every aspect of Turkish society.

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