In the local elections of March 31, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), as Turkey's ruling and dominant political party, and the Republican People's Party (CHP), as the main opposition political party, competed with the support of their allied political parties.
While the AK Party and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) jointly formed the People's Alliance, the Nation Alliance of the CHP consists of an overt alliance with the Good Party (İP) and the Felicity Party (SP) and a covert alliance with the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). The People's Alliance ran for the local elections with an electoral discourse pertaining to general elections. However, in the present context of economic shrinkage, the AK Party's key strength derived from its success in local administrations.
Indeed, during the AK Party's years wielding political power, an administrative revolution has occurred in local governance, thanks to which cities have achieved a great degree of satisfaction in terms of public services.
Nonetheless, both the AK Party and the MHP had insistently relied on the discourse of the state's survival throughout the local elections. Yet, it is a tragic irony of Turkish politics that the PKK almost always ceases its terrorist attacks whenever Turkey conducts elections.
When the electoral competition began, the municipal elections of Ankara had emerged as the most difficult elections to win for the People's Alliance. As the AK Party's leadership had been aware of this electoral risk in Ankara, they concentrated their electoral campaign in Turkey's capital by neglecting the local elections in Istanbul where Binali Yıldırım, a popular and a strong candidate, was running for the municipal elections.
Regarding the voting rates of political parties in Istanbul, the main opposition CHP and its main ally the İP had 37 percent and 6 percent of Istanbul's constituency, respectively. As a covert ally, the HDP provided a 5 percent voting rate for the Nation Alliance. The CHP's municipal candidate could have won the municipal elections in Istanbul.
On the other hand, Yıldırım, as the municipal candidate of the People's Alliance, took 48 percent of the votes, which was equal to the sum of the votes of the AK Party and MHP's voters. In fact, Yıldırım was able to win over votes from the urban middle class for the AK Party, despite their political preferences.
Yet, the results of the local elections of March 31 were mainly determined by the electoral behavior of conservative Kurdish voters that support the HDP. Before these local elections, 300,000 voters from the HDP, which generally earns 10 percent of the votes in local elections countrywide, supported AK Party's candidates. Now, in the current local elections, the electoral discourse of the People's Alliance alienated these voters from the AK Party. It is my belief that these conservative Kurdish voters will again determine the results of the repeated elections in Istanbul.
On the other hand, we should also take the electoral behavior of young voters into consideration, as they play a big role in Turkey's constituency. In fact, there are thousands of young people who have come to Istanbul from Anatolia for education or work. Therefore, the AK Party must share its political vision with these young voters as well by emphasizing its public services in the fields of education, employment, sports, culture and social facilities.
For the upcoming repeated elections in Istanbul, the CHP will certainly rely on the discourse of being the underdog in the canceled elections, while the AK Party is expected to emphasize the electoral fraud. Yet, the AK Party must concentrate its electoral campaign on the public services that they have realized in the previous periods. As Istanbul has a dynamic population of almost 20 million people, the AK Party should remind the electorate of its achievements in their electoral constituency.
Eventually, the results of the repeated elections in Istanbul will be determined by the votes of conservative Kurds and electoral tactics. Relying on the discourse of being the underdog of the cancelled elections, the CHP seems to have the upper hand. Yet, the precarious balance of the local elections might shift if the AK Party conducts a strong electoral campaign with well-designed electoral discourse.
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