After 25 years, the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) has finally managed to win the administration of the metropolitan municipality of the capital province of Ankara, with its candidate Mansur Yavaş officially receiving his mandate Monday. However, despite winning the municipality as a center-left party, considering the conservative-nationalist political background of the newly-elected mayor Yavaş, no ideological transformation in favor of the CHP seems to be in sight for the capital.
Turkey's Supreme Election Council (YSK) awarded the certificate of election to Yavaş Monday to become the mayor of Ankara after he won the election by 50.9 percent of votes. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) had challenged the results from the local elections in the Ankara, but a recount showed that Yavaş maintained a lead of about 124,000 votes over the AK Party's candidate Mehmet Özhaseki.
Opposition leans toward rightist policies to attract voters
Entering the election as the joint candidate of the Nation Alliance formed between the center-left secularist CHP and the right-wing Good Party (IP), Yavaş, a former Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) mayor in Beypazarı district, followed a ritualistic conservative-nationalist pattern at the beginning of his tenure. He started the day with the morning prayer at the historic Hacı Bayram Veli Mosque and visited the tomb of the famous Turkish Sufi. Later in the day, he visited Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of the Republic's founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in the capital. Despite its nationalist candidate's achievement instilling hope for the CHP administration for a possibility of a success in the next general elections slated for 2023, the race in the capital, similar to many other provinces, revealed that there is no transformation of the general tendencies of the Turkish voters, but instead, this time the main opposition chose candidates according to the characteristics of the electorate.
The center-right domination started in the capital with the election of former Ankara municipal mogul, Melih Gökçek, who administered the city for 23 years between 1994 and 2017. He was first elected as a part of the conservative Welfare Party (RP), when incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won the mayoral election in Istanbul from the same party. Gökçek transferred to the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) after its foundation in 2001, and triumphed against its opponents in local elections in 2004, 2009 and 2014.
Bearing in mind this fact, a new strategy emerged for the main opposition after it failed to earn election success for decades in Ankara and Istanbul with leftist and social-democrat candidates. It started to be dubbed as the "seashore party" as its achievement was confined, for a long time, to winning several mayoral posts in the Aegean and Marmara provinces. With its partner in the Nation Alliance, the IP, the CHP administration adopted different methods and fielded more conservative figures in the two biggest cities.
During the campaign period, Yavaş highlighted the concept of a "badgeless administration," which denotes the model of a mayor without political affiliation. He also refrained from using party emblems in a majority of his election ads in the capital, emphasizing on more neutral terms as "justice," "plenty" and "peace." Another strategy followed by Yavaş was putting scrupulous attention on staying away from the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which overtly declared its support for Yavaş in Ankara. The HDP has been accused of being affiliated with the PKK terrorist organization.
Success came for the experienced nationalist in his third consecutive attempt in the capital. He entered politics from the MHP and was elected as mayor of Ankara's Beypazarı district from the party, which is currently in alliance with ruling AK Party under the umbrella of the People's Alliance. After he served between 1999-2009, the MHP nominated Yavaş as a candidate for Ankara Metropolitan Municipality, and he gained unexpected success, earning 27 percent of the votes, but stay behind the candidates of the AK Party and CHP. In the 2014 local elections, Yavaş transferred from the MHP to the CHP and was nominated against Gökçek. However, the veteran mayor left behind Yavaş in a fierce competition by garnering 44.8 percent of votes, while Yavaş got 43.8 percent of votes.