Turkey held a historic municipal election on Sunday with a turnout of over 80 percent. The People's Alliance received nearly 52 percent of the vote, as the electorate threw its weight behind political stability amid economic hardship and an international smear campaign, in the final election before the Republic's centennial in 2023.
In the 2014 municipal election, the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), the terrorist organization PKK's political wing, had scored a historic victory against the backdrop of a massively popular peace process.
It achieved similar success in the following year's parliamentary election. Yet the terrorist organization PKK's return to violence and the HDP leadership's support for the group's devastating urban warfare campaign resulted in popular outrage. Moreover, the replacement of HDP-affiliated mayors with independent trustees to crack down on terror financing and recruitment efforts received a warm welcome from local communities. Consequently, the AK Party was able to win mayoral races in former PKK strongholds, including Şırnak and Bitlis, with the support of local residents who could finally speak up against the yoke of terrorism.
The Western media did not break with tradition in the March 2019 municipal election. Once again, self-proclaimed "Turkey experts" misled the global audience about the political situation in the country. In recent weeks, millions of people were shamelessly exposed to the ill-informed claim that Erdoğan was going to suffer a serious defeat due to an ongoing assault against the Turkish economy and the continued threat of terrorism. The election results, however, indicate that the People's Alliance made the right call by building its campaign around the question of national survival. The message clearly resonated with the country's predominantly right-leaning voters – which must not have come as a surprise to Daily Sabah's readers.
Finally, the electorate proved opinion polls wrong once again. Having failed to predict Britain's departure from the European Union and Donald Trump's victory in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, pollsters could not accurately project the behavior of Turkish voters this weekend.
The biggest winner, by contrast, was Turkish democracy.
In recent weeks, countless pundits, talking heads and armchair generals attempted to raise questions about the nature of Turkey's free and fair elections. Despite their baseless accusations, politicians from all backgrounds were able to contest mayoral elections. Both the voting procedure and count took place in a transparent fashion and in the presence of representatives from all political parties. In the end, the Nation Alliance, led by the Republican People's Party (CHP), was able to win key metropolitan districts including Ankara and Antalya. That the left needed center-right politicians, such as Mansur Yavaş, in order to succeed reaffirmed the power of the People's Alliance. Another interesting development took place in Tunceli, where the Turkish Communist Party's (TKP) Fatih Mehmet Maçoğlu won the mayoral race against the incumbent HDP.
Appearing in front of cameras last night, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reiterated his commitment to electoral democracy and thanked all citizens, regardless of the color of their vote, for participating in the election. He also dispelled the rumor that Turkey was heading to an early election by explicitly stating that there would be no election until 2023.
All in all, Turkey's municipal election was a resounding success. But it is time to put this election behind us and focus on pressing problems. With no national or municipal election scheduled to take place for several years, the country's leadership has a unique opportunity to implement structural reforms to fix the Turkish economy and address threats against its national security – specifically the PKK threat emanating from Syria and Iraq.