Local elections in Türkiye – Economic punch to the government

Local elections in Türkiye – Economic punch to the government

Local elections in Türkiye resulted in a heavy defeat for the government and a victory for the main opposition party, Republican People’s Party (CHP).

A total of 48,153,788 citizens voted in the elections held on March 31, with a turnout of 78.53%. 35 political parties and independent candidates participated in the elections.

Big shock for AKP in metropolitan cities

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) failed in the metropolitan municipalities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir and lost the municipalities of Balıkesir, Bursa, Denizli and Şanlıurfa.

The main opposition CHP, on the other hand, lost only Hatay among the 11 metropolitan municipalities it held (objections to the Hatay election results are still pending), while it won Balıkesir, Bursa, Denizli and Manisa.

The AKP lost Şanlıurfa against the candidate of the New Welfare Party (YRP), while the CHP won Manisa defeating the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

In Istanbul, CHP candidate Ekrem Imamoğlu out polled AKP candidate Murat Kurum by nearly 11 points, while CHP won in all of Istanbul’s critical districts, including Üsküdar.

In Ankara, Mansur Yavaş, the current CHP mayor, defeated his AKP rival Turgut Altınok by nearly 30 percentage points, handing the ruling party a heavy defeat.

The AKP also failed to win Izmir, where it had been betting on this election.

In Izmir, CHP candidate Cemil Tugay outpolled his AKP rival Hamza Dağ by nearly 11 points.

Overall vote gap

For the first time since the 1977 elections, the CHP came first in the overall vote share.

The CHP received 37.64 percent of the vote and the AK Party 35.57 percent.  The Islamist-oriented New Welfare Party (YRP) came third with 6.16 percent of the vote, which was a big surprise.

The DEM Party, which replaced the HDP that was shut down due to its links to terrorism, received 5.62 percent of the vote, while the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) received only 4.97 percent of the vote.

The nationalist-oriented Good Party (İYİP) received 3.77%, Victory Party (ZP) 1.65% and Felicity Party (SAADET) 1.08%.

The CHP won elections in 35 provinces, including 14 metropolitan cities.

AKP won in 24 provinces, 12 of which were metropolitan cities.

Dem Party won in 3 metropolitan cities and 7 provinces.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) won 8 provincial municipalities.

New Welfare Party (YRP) won the elections in 1 metropolitan (Şanlıurfa) and 1 provincial (Yozgat) municipality.

Good Party (in Nevşehir) and Great Unity Party (in Sivas) won the elections in 1 province each.

CHP Chairman Özel’s message on becoming a central party

CHP Chairman Özgür Özel made a speech after the election results were finalized in many provinces and districts. Özel made the statement:

(…) I would like to thank all party workers, the guardians of the family home, the CHP organization.

The election results show that today the voters have decided to establish a new politics in Türkiye. Today, voters decided to change the 22-year picture of Türkiye and open the door to a new political climate.

Today, in the first elections of the second century of the Republic, voters decided to balance the disproportionate power of the ruling party locally. Our nation has not only decided who the local administrators will be, but also sent a message on how our country and municipalities should not be governed.

There is no loser in this election. Our success will not be a defeat for anyone, it is not a defeat for anyone. No matter which party they voted for today, we don’t want anyone to feel like a loser (…) The most important message of today’s success is that the CHP has broken the invisible 25 percent ceiling above its head.

Although no alliance was formed with any political party in these elections, the CHP’s power and the conscience of the voters at the ballot box have further increased the success of Türkiye’s alliance in 2019. I would like to express that we do not see these results as a victory that will lead us to complacency, but as a credit given to us by the voters. We are aware that this support from all voter groups, which has fundamentally changed the course of Turkish politics, places a great responsibility on our party. CHP is now the party of all democrats and at the same time the party where nationalist, conservative and Kurdish democrats can vote together at the same time. We do not read these voters as CHP voters, we take this as a duty they have given us, and we put take this in our hearts.”

Self-criticism message from President Erdoğan

President Erdoğan also made a speech with the finalization of the election results. Erdoğan used the following expressions:

“I believe in you and we will continue on this path by winning. We did not get the result we hoped for in the local elections 9 months after the May 14–28 elections (…)

The nation has made its decision. The Supreme Election Council (YSK) will announce the final result in the coming days. We will evaluate the results of March 31st in the organs of our party and make our self-criticism. The ballot box results show us that we have lost altitude. We will discuss the reasons for this localized regression. We will identify the problems and take necessary interventions. Remember; there is a destiny above destiny. Under no circumstances will we disrespect the decision of our nation. We will stay away from stubbornness with the nation. We will take our steps by weighing them in the most objective way in our scales of reason and conscience (…)

We will focus more on the reconstruction of the earthquake region, economic problems and urgent issues. We have implemented our 12th development plan with determination so far. We will stay away from populist steps that will cost our country, our nation and future generations. We will start to see the results of our economic program, especially inflation, in the second half of the year. We will definitely deal a fatal blow to the separatist organization with our successful operations. We will not allow the establishment of a terrorist state beyond our southern borders. We will eliminate the last remnants of FETÖ.” 

Surprises of the election

The election also produced some surprising results.

The AKP lost the elections in some cities that were seen as its strongholds. After 20 years, some of them switched from AKP to CHP.

CHP candidate Abdurrahman Tutdere won the election in Adıyaman with 49 percent of the vote. AK Party candidate Ziya Polat remained at 27 percent. The AK Party’s vote in the city dropped by 25 percent compared to the 2019 elections.

There was also a surprise result in Balıkesir. CHP won the election in Balıkesir for the first time since the city became a province in 1950.

CHP candidate Ahmet Akın received 51 percent of the votes and was elected mayor according to unofficial results.

A similar situation took place in Kırıkkale. In Kırıkkale, which became a province in 1989, CHP took power for the first time.

In Kilis, which was declared a province in 1995, CHP candidate Hakan Bilecen ranked first with 41.98 percent. CHP, which received 3 percent of the votes in the city in 2014, won the first time in this election.

A similar picture emerged in Yozgat, which has been governed by the AK Party since 2004. Kazım Arslan of the Welfare Party won 36 percent of the votes and became the new mayor of Yozgat according to the unofficial results.

The main determining factor: The economy

In the aftermath of the elections, opinions emerged that the economic situation was decisive in the heavy defeat of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

After the general elections, the government left the management of the economy in the hands of Mehmet Şimşek, known for his neo-liberal tendencies, and started to raise interest rates, while the Turkish lira fell sharply in the process.

The decline in the purchasing power of the people is said to be the determining factor.

On the other hand, due to the AKP’s failure to take a full stance against Israel, some of the AKP’s votes shifted to the conservative New Welfare Party (YRP) , and the YRP became the third party.

The loser of the elections was the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) along with the AKP.

Most of the MHP votes were shared between the Good Party and the Victory Party, which also have a nationalist discourse.

On the other hand, it is rumoured that Good Party Chairperson Meral Akşener is preparing to resign in connection with the election results.

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April 2024