Ahead of the March 30 local elections, the ruling AK Party remains in domestic and international limelight as corruption allegations and a bitter power struggle with the Gülen Movement raises questions about potential shifts in Turkey's political landscape. Meanwhile, supporters of the Republican People's Party (CHP) across the nation cross their fingers that the ballot box will give them a glimmer of hope after over a decade since the Left's last local election victory in 1999. Generally speaking, the Turkish Republicans have long viewed the March 30 elections as a stepping stone to success in the 2015 parliamentary elections. As early as 2012, winning the race for Istanbul mayor emerged as the overarching theme for the CHP's national conventions and campaign events -unable to challenge the AK Party in a field war, the Republican leadership believed that a series of ambushes in key districts like Istanbul and Ankara.
As part of this game plan, the main opposition party adopted a pragmatic approach which they hoped could rapidly bump up the party's votes from high 20s to mid 30s, and narrow down the 20-point margin in the 2011 parliamentary elections. Republican chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu stated early on in the campaign that his party would "welcome any candidate who would bring additional votes" to the opposition ranks - a principle that they put into action by nominating independent Mustafa Sarıgül in Istanbul and former Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) member Mansur Yavaş, the 2009 runner-up, in Ankara.
Furthermore, the party lured away incumbent Lütfü Savaş from the AK Party following the ruling party's decision to opt for another candidate in Hatay, where sectarian tensions run high against the backdrop of the influx of Syrian refugees.
Over the past months, it has not been uncommon to hear complaints about the party's local election strategy which many interpret as a sign that the Republicans are straying away from their core ideological principles. While party culture dictates disgruntled opponents to keep silent until after elections, popular Kemalist figures such as Birgül Ayman Güler, an MP for İzmir, have already begun to challenge the CHP leadership for flirting with the Gülen Movement.
Despite the huge amount of risk that the main opposition took for rapid success, pollsters project that the party remains unlikely to meet its objectives despite the government's ongoing struggle against corruption allegations and a recent falling out with the Gülen Movement. If the ballot box proves pollsters right, the Republican leadership might face a serious revolt in their ranks after the local elections.
Considering that the party's national convention will take place by the end of 2014, it would not be surprising for the Kemalist majority to rally behind an ideologically acceptable champion to challenge the current leadership's future plans.