The 2014 elections were the test of support for the legitimacy of the AK Party government and Erdoğan following the judicial coup attempt prompted by FETÖ on Dec. 17 and Dec. 25, 2013. Even though the attempts were intended to topple the government through manipulated wiretaps and forged evidence, the elections resulted in a victory for the AK Party, which won Turkey's two largest cities of Istanbul and capital Ankara.
"The 2014 local elections were held in the shade of the Dec. 17 and Dec. 25 operations. However, the upcoming local elections would go into a different atmosphere," President of the GENAR Research Institute, İhsan Aktaş told Daily Sabah.
Adding that the candidate profiles will become prominent in the March 31 elections, Aktaş said fielding such a strong candidate as Parliament Speaker Binali Yıldırım for Istanbul shows how the profiles will be important in the people's choices.
Arguing that people will vote for the candidate profile rather than the ideology or party preferences, Pösteki said that due this tendency the elections will run neck and neck in some provinces including Ankara, Mersin, Eskişehir, Bursa, Balıkesir and Antalya.
"After the transition to the presidential system, alliances put a stamp on politics, which makes the race even more competitive in cities where competition is intense like Antalya where almost every election took place with intense competition," Aktaş noted.
ALLIANCES AFTER JULY 15
Following the failed coup attempt by FETÖ on July 15, 2016, a rapprochement was triggered between the AK Party and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), leading the way for the formation of the People's Alliance, which secured a victory in the June 24 parliamentary and presidential elections.
Opposition parties including the Republican People's Party (CHP), the right-wing Good Party (İP), the conservative Felicity Party (SP) and the center-right Democrat Party (DP) on the other hand agreed to form another election bloc, namely the Nation Alliance, against the People's Alliance.
The AK Party and the MHP have decided to carry the momentum toward the March 31 elections in order to "preserve national security in the face of internal and foreign threats." The People's Alliance is also an attempt to ensure the consolidation of center-right voters under one pole, which is believed to be the core of traditional Turkish politics.
On the other hand, the CHP and İP have reached an agreement to continue their political alliance in an aim to appeal to a larger voter base.
In such an atmosphere, the AK Party and MHP agreed to cooperate in 30 provinces for the upcoming local elections while the parties composing the Nation Alliance will back each other's mayoral candidates in 36 provinces.
Pursuant to the People's Alliance, the MHP won't nominate mayor candidates in Istanbul, Ankara, and İzmir, but will instead support candidates of the AK Party. In turn, the AK Party will back the MHP's candidates in Adana, Mersin and Manisa provinces and several districts of Turkey where the MHP has great potential to win.
As for the Nation Alliance, the İP will also not field mayoral candidates in Aydın, Muğla, Tekirdağ, Hatay, Izmir, Eskişehir, Ankara, Istanbul, Antalya, Bursa and Adana provinces, and the CHP will also not field its mayor candidates in 10 provinces including Trabzon, Kayseri and Manisa in support of İP's candidates.
YILDIRIM A CLEAR FAVORITE
To maintain the party's long-lasting rule in Istanbul, the AK Party announced Binali Yıldırım, the last prime minister of the country and the current Parliament speaker, as its candidate for the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, where the CHP presented Ekrem İmamoğlu, the mayor of Istanbul's Beylikdüzü district, as their joint candidate for the Nation Alliance.
Stressing that Yıldırım is seven to eight points ahead of his opponent İmamoğlu, Pösteki said that the electoral base in Istanbul has been long been waiting to see Yıldırım as the AK Party's candidate. Although, he added that the CHP aims to create a block that will try to appeal to the voters of the SP and pro-PKK Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) in the city. In the capital Ankara, where the CHP administration seeks to break the long-running center-right hegemony, Ankara's former Beypazarı District Mayor Mansur Yavaş, was announced as a joint candidate of the Nation Alliance. The AK Party, on the other hand, fielded former Environment and Urban Planning Minister Mehmet Özhaseki, who is a deputy from central Kayseri province and currently serves as AK Party vice chairman in charge of local administrations, as its candidate.
"Opposition parties, especially the CHP, govern the electoral process through the themes of nativeness [native of Ankara] and nationalism. However, I believe the election results might be in favor of the AK Party, which fielded a candidate who masters in running municipalities," Aktaş noted.
On the other hand, regarding the nationalist identity of Yavaş, Pösteki said he has a chance to win the Ankara Metropolitan Municipality, adding the People's Alliance has a potential to win the Yenimahalle district of Ankara which the CHP has won in the previous elections.
For the CHP's stronghold of İzmir, Pösteki said 35 percent of voters in İzmir are discontent with the CHP's long-running mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu, however, due to the ideological tendency of the electoral base in the city, the CHP won the previous local election by garnering 49.60 percent of the votes.
The AK Party announced former Economy Minister and current Denizli deputy Nihat Zeybekci as its mayoral candidate for western İzmir province, while the CHP has not yet revealed its candidate in its stronghold.