AKP’s local election defeat may change several paradigms in Turkiye

AKP’s local election defeat may change several paradigms in Turkiye

AKP’s local election defeat may change several paradigms in Turkiye
Opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) supporters celebrate municipal election victory across Turkiye, in Istanbul. (AFP)
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The local elections held last week in Turkiye may herald the beginning of a new era in the country’s domestic politics.
The Republican People’s Party, known as the CHP, was established more than a century ago, in 1923, and ruled Turkiye as a single party until 1950. After that, it came to power only for brief periods or in coalition with other parties. Last week, however, it won the most provinces and the largest number of votes.
However, the results of last week’s elections look more like a consequence of the mistakes of the ruling party, the Justice and Development Party or AKP, rather than the main opposition party’s success.
Beating President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party was, of course, a major achievement for the CHP, but one swallow does not make a summer. Turkiye’s domestic politics is constantly moving. We have to see whether the CHP will be able to maintain stability. Erdogan’s ability to come up with creative ideas has to be reckoned with. We will be able to draw more stable conclusions after the next elections.
Several factors may explain the CHP’s success and AKP’s failure. The country’s economic difficulties is one of them. The unequal distribution of income is another. And the rule of law is far from being what it should be.
Erdogan announced during the recent election campaign that he might not run in the national elections in 2028. He may now have an additional reason to bring an end to his political career.
During a post mortem assessment meeting, Erdogan complained about the AKP making wrong choices for mayoral posts and members of the municipal councils. However, he was the top arbitrator for everything done during the elections. Therefore, he cannot blame others. He confessed that everyone has to assume their share of the responsibility.
For a change, Erdogan did not blame so-called foreign actors for his party’s failures.
The surprise of last week’s elections was the emergence of the New Welfare Party of Fatih Erbakan as the third-largest party with 6 percent of the total votes. Its constituency grew 50 percent from the last general elections. It won elections in one metropolitan city, one province, 38 districts and 19 suburbs. This party is the continuation of the one established by its leader’s late father, Necmettin Erbakan.
Fatih Erbakan aims at an ambitious foreign policy that ranges from sending Turkish troops to Gaza, expelling the Israeli ambassador from Ankara, ending bilateral trade with Israel and closing down two radar stations, one in Incirlik and the other in Kurecik. Such wide-ranging measures would change the paradigms in the Middle East and Turkiye could hardly implement such drastic measures. 

Beating Erdogan’s AKP was a major achievement for the CHP, but one swallow does not make a summer.

Yasar Yakis

The AKP’s unofficial coalition partner, the Nationalist Movement Party or MHP, saw its vote share reduced to 4.99 percent. With this percentage in a national election, it would not be able to form a group in parliament, so the AKP may be tempted to reassess whether it should carry on its shoulders a right-wing party that does not do it any good.
Meral Aksener’s IYI Party has been harshly criticized for all the mistakes she made during last year’s general elections. She said that she would convene the party’s convention to make a final decision on her future. The best option seems to be for her to bring an end to her political career. Her party, together with what remains of the MHP, still constitutes a sharpened segment in Turkiye’s active political life. At present, the right-wing electorate is slightly in disarray, but this group is composed of dedicated people. They are not likely to give up easily. Secular nationalists may gather again under the CHP, at least temporarily.
Kurds continue to be a major issue in the southeastern region. In the province of Van, Abdullah Zeydan, the elected mayor, was preparing to assume his post, but the Ministry of Justice intervened five minutes before the closure of the offices. It said that, according to a decision made two years ago, there was a discrepancy that had to be corrected immediately. This was not possible. Fortunately, the Supreme Election Council decided in favor of the Kurdish party. Otherwise, Zeydan, who received 55 percent of the votes, was going to be deprived of his title in favor of the AKP candidate, who had received only 27 percent.
After last week’s election victory, the CHP may now prevail in many decisions adopted in the municipal councils. However, we might expect the central government authorities to block the implementation of some of these decisions.
In the recent past, we have witnessed cases where the central authorities delayed, sometimes for several months, the government’s approval of foreign credits. These funds were negotiated with foreign countries but the central Turkish authorities kept them on their desk for a prolonged period.
The results of these elections will necessarily raise the question of who is going to be No. 1 in the victorious party, the CHP. Ozgur Ozel, the party’s chairman, has not so far claimed that he hopes to become president of the republic. Meanwhile, the metropolitan mayor of Ankara, Mansur Yavas, seems to be happy to remain in his present post. Ekrem Imamoglu, the metropolitan mayor of Istanbul, has given several signals that he is very much interested in becoming president.
Erdogan is scheduled to go to the US next month. However, he will now make this trip as leader of a political party that lost the most recent elections in his country. This is an important minus before he visits the US.

Yasar Yakis is a former foreign minister of Turkiye and founding member of the ruling AK Party.
X: @yakis_yasar

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