Turkish Regional Elections Could Change National Politics

  • Agáta Paličková
  • 3.4.2019 07:44

Generally, the outcomes of regional elections are only relevant for those directly touched by them, and they have few nation-wide implications. Turkish elections took place this Sunday with a very surprising result. Turnout was high - around 85 % of voters came to fight. For Turkish people, the elections were the embodiment of their struggle and the only tool they can use against the current government. Erdoğan mobilised all available resources for his campaign, because he had a lot to lose. Eventually, his greatest nightmare became a reality and his former voters punished him for the current economic problems.

On one side of the election standoff was Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), along with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Together, they formed the so-called People’s Alliance. This coalition came into being in 2017, before the controversial referendum aimed at expanding Erdoğan’s presidential powers, and its existence continued throughout the 2018 presidential and parliamentary elections. The staple theme of AKP’s and MHP’s campaign was the “survival of Turkey” in the face of corruptive influence from within and foreign intervention from abroad.

 

The opposition is weakened by the ideological incompatibility of its individual member parties and the lack of a common vision for the future.

 

The opposition was led by the Republican People’s Party (CHP). The CHP has formed a loose coalition of other anti-system parties, such as the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party or the nationalist İyi Party. This coalition is known as the National Alliance and its main aims include reducing the power of both Erdoğan and his AKP party. However, the National Alliance is weakened by the ideological incompatibility of its individual member parties and the lack of a common vision for the future. The aims of the opposition illustrate why the upcoming elections were so vital for Erdoğan.

Turkey is currently facing a wide range of economic, political, and social problems, such as the growing social divisions or the threat of terrorism. The AKP was attempting to divert the public’s attention from these issues or offer short-term solutions to placate public opinion until the elections. An example of this is the current food crisis. To compensate for the growing prices of food, the government has established specialised stores, where food can be bought for reduced prices, which, on the other hand, damages small business owners, who are unable to compete with them.

 

The position of the ruling party might be considerably undermined and in the long-run, the secularist parties might gain more room for manoeuvre.

 

The effort of Erdoğan’s government was in vain. The opposition officially won Izmir and Ankara, where the AKP was ruling for the past sixteen years. Both the CHP and the AKP announced victory in Istanbul. The AKP denies the results showing the opposition as a winner. All over Istanbul, you can see victory posters of the AKP together with reports in newspapers about their victory and stories about stolen ballots that damaged the party's performance. Nationwide, the AKP won 51,6 % of the vote, but Erdoğan’s position is significantly damaged after the great loss of economically and strategically vital cities.

The position of the ruling party might be considerably undermined and in the long-run, the secularist parties might gain more room for manoeuvre. Turkey’s potential return to secularism would negatively impact the countries relations with Iran and Russia, which have seen a significant strengthening due to the situation in Syria. Such an outcome would surely ease the worries of Turkey’s Western allies and diffuse some of the tensions that have developed inside NATO as a consequence of the increasingly authoritarian and Islamist direction of Erdoğan’s domestic policy.

About author: Agáta Paličková

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