Turkey is heading toward a long campaign period for the local elections scheduled for next March. Political parties have declared their programs and manifestos by picking some of their candidates for cities and districts, even though there is still plenty of time. However, the complete lists have not been officially announced and are seemingly still in progress as all sides are watching the first moves of their opponents.
In the western side of the country, the stronghold of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) will compete particularly against the CHP, while the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) is the biggest challenge for other parties in the eastern and southeastern provinces. Although they are local elections, the parties, especially the opposition, are approaching the event as if they were preparing for a general election; hence, their sole purpose is nothing but to beat the AK Party, seeking unity against it.
Contrary to past elections, there is a different atmosphere in the southeastern region today. For the first time, with the AK Party gaining sufficient seats in the mayorships in the region, there have been incredible improvements in municipal works in provinces like Diyarbakır, Mardin and so on that have been appreciated by locals and even by moderate HDP supporters. Despite the smear and negative campaigns pursued by the HDP and its external backers, the AK Party's deeds and giant investments, for example in Suriçi, a southeastern district widely damaged by PKK terrorists, are enough to help it win the hearts and minds of local voters.
In such a period, the AK Party's promises and projects are beyond compare, giving hope to boost the welfare and development of the region; therefore, it wouldn't be a surprise to see a landslide victory for the AK Party. Another factor working in the AK Party's favor is the intense internal conflict among HDP members. It has been reported that there has been a deep political rift in the HDP's administration, and it is rumored that there are two different blocs clashing in the party leadership: The leftist wing and Kurdish nationalists.
The discrepancy is directly related to the recently growing dichotomy in the outlawed PKK. The designated terrorist group has been facing a leadership crisis for months; as such, it is believed that the pro-Iranian and pro-U.S. actors are challenging one another to dominate the group. The pro-PKK members of the HDP, particularly, cause problems for locals disturbed by the PKK terrorism and have pushed them to support the AK Party in the local elections.
Meanwhile, the European Court of Human Rights released a statement regarding Selahattin Demirtaş, the former co-chair of the HDP who was jailed for having triggered a deadly riot in the country in October 2014 in which some 50 people were killed. The European court's call for the release of Demirtaş was declared as the parties were about to complete their final preparations to kick off their campaigns for the upcoming elections.
Whether the AK Party can reach its goal in the region is still unclear, but the current polls and surveys harbinger a possible AK Party victory. For that, the AK Party is still looking for the best candidates who are both aware of the sociological realities and have strong democratic values.
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