Foreign

Administrative elections

Turkey: deputy leader of the opposition party dies due to the collapse of a balcony

The terrace collapsed due to the weight of too many people who were celebrating the electoral victory

04/01/2024

The deputy head of the Turkish opposition party, Mehmet Palaz, died after a balcony collapsed during celebrations celebrating his victory in municipal elections held against Erdogan's party in Istanbul and Ankara on Sunday. 

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has therefore failed in the challenge to reconquer Ankara and Istanbul. The main cities of Turkey, already torn away five years ago by the CHP's opposition to the Turkish president's AKP party, have chosen to confirm their mayors in office. The Easter administrative elections in Turkey thus end with a defeat for the Turkish leader and his party which receives one of the worst results since its foundation, risking undermining the sultan's political future: "The decline of democracy is over. While we celebrate the our victory, let's send a message to the world", he said, celebrating the success in the city on the Bosphorus where Ekrem Imamoglu, the mayor now considered Erdogan's strongest opponent, won over 51% of the vote. And, according to many, capable of beating him in the next presidential elections in 2028.

Imamoglu described the result in Istanbul as "a beacon of hope and a testimony to the resilience of democratic values ​​against rising authoritarianism", as crowds cheered him with music and Turkish flags outside the city's Bosphorus municipality building. Erdogan, who immediately after voting yesterday said he was certain of the beginning of "a new era", was forced to admit defeat: during the night, when the results were now clear, he flew to Ankara and spoke in front of a few supporters, promising that he will reflect on what happened, while a few kilometers away the opposition was celebrating Mansur Yavas. The reconfirmed mayor, also from the CHP, won in the capital with a plebiscite: over 60% of the vote, leaving the candidate supported by the Turkish president at 31%.

But the opposition's victory extends beyond the two main centers of the country, hand in hand with a historic retreat of Erdogan's AKP. The Turkish president's party obtained one of the lowest results in the elections since it was founded (35.4%) and for the first time was overtaken by the CHP which reached 37.7%, the highest consensus for the party since 1977. The largest opposition party won in the first five cities of Turkey, dominated the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts and managed to wrest some provinces in central Anatolia from the AKP, historically a stronghold for Erdogan. Here, the AKP also lost some cities to the Islamist Yeniden Refah Partisi and the far-right nationalist party MHP, groups that supported Erdogan in last year's presidential elections and entered parliament but decided to run alone in the local elections .

The pro-Kurdish and left-wing party Dem has confirmed itself as the main force in the south-east of the country, on the border with Syria and Iraq. The Dem increased its electoral base in the Kurdish-majority region and conquered more provinces than in the consultations five ago when, despite the victory, the government decided to remove many of the elected mayors, accused of closeness with the Kurdistan Workers' Party ( PKK), considered terrorist by Ankara. With a turnout of 78.7%, down compared to the local elections of 5 years ago and also compared to last year's presidential elections, when participation was close to 90%, according to analysts, many Erdogan voters would have chosen not to go at the polls.

Many have underlined how the economic crisis that has been going on for years, with inflation at 67% and a weak national currency, may have exasperated parts of the Sultan's electorate, leading them not to vote. While in the context of local administration, it seems that Erdogan's choice to personalize the electoral campaign, dominating rallies and leaving a few minutes of space for the candidates he supported, did not pay off as in the past. Erdogan will remain president until the 2028 elections but after the administrative vote the opposition is reinvigorated and today has greater resources. A fundamental point especially in the electoral campaign, in a context where, for over twenty years, Erdogan and his party have dominated the media spectrum. 

According to the results of the 2024 local government general elections, CHP mayoral candidate Kadir Tatık came ahead in Denizli's Tavas district. When the result, albeit unofficial, began to become clear, many party members gathered in front of the party building on Yeni Mahalle Karağolanoğlu Street to celebrate the election victory. In addition to the celebrations continuing on the street, a large group of people went up to the party building on the second floor and filled two balconies. While the celebrations continued with enthusiasm, one of the balconies collapsed. Following the collapse of the balcony, 8 party members were injured, including those in the street and on the balcony, 3 of them seriously. 

Among the injured, the district vice-president of the CHP Mehmet Palaz, who suffered a blow to the head and was in danger of dying, was admitted to Pamukkale University Hospital after initial treatment at Tavas State Hospital. Palaz died the next morning despite all the doctors' interventions.