İZMİR - İzmir, with its secularist and democratic roots, upheld its reputation as a leftist stronghold in Sunday's local elections with record support for incumbent Metropolitan Mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP.
Kocaoğlu got 53.4 percent of the vote while the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, candidate, Tahat Aksoy, won just 32.2 percent.
The AKP has never hidden its desire to win municipal elections in Turkey’s third most populous city, but the party’s conservative values keep it from making strong inroads into the province. The people of İzmir responded harshly to the "I want İzmir" order that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the AKP leader, gave to ministers.
Residents of İzmir, who are generally devoted to a Western style of living and happy with incumbent Kocaoğlu, made their choice with one in every two votes going to the CHP. Furthermore, the AKP lost seven junior municipality districts that it had held in İzmir. The CHP won in 29 junior municipality districts, while the Democrat Party, or DP, won in the Tire district of İzmir.
Though İzmir is seen as a CHP stronghold, the gap between it and the AKP was only 15 percent in the local elections of 2004, and 5 percent in the 2007 general elections, with the CHP gaining 35.46 percent and the AKP 30.5 percent.
Kocaoğlu was elected as a junior mayor for the Bornova district in the 2004 local elections. The death from a heart attack of Mayor Ahmet Piriştina Ğ only three months after he was elected with 47.6 percent support Ğ resulted in the CHP-dominated municipal assembly voting Kocaoğlu in as a replacement. Four and half successful years into his term, Kocaoğlu seems to have won İzmir’s heart.
The CHP victory was welcomed with celebrations in İzmir attended by the party’s new mayors in the city. Addressing the people of İzmir, Kocaoğlu said they made history by increasing their votes in the city. "We got many more votes than we expected, achieving this with the residents’ support and love," he said. "Our responsibility has increased from now on. Our target is to make İzmir the star of the Mediterranean, and then a world city." He added that the CHP would work to solve İzmir’s problems with the help of other political parties.
AKP candidate Aksoy was disappointed again in İzmir, where he lost by a huge margin after previously losing the 2004 local elections to CHP candidate Ahmet Piriştina. In the interim between the two local elections, he was elected to Parliament from İzmir in the 2007 general elections.
In his post-election statement, Aksoy did not hide his disappointment. "I was hoping to get a better result in İzmir," he said. "I had a disappointment. It is democracy. Everybody should respect results. I congratulate Kocaoğlu."