Two things are certain: While Sunday's local elections in Turkey are proof of the nation's gratefulness vis-a-vis the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), they are at the same time a clear indicator of the on-going and immensely high levels of affection extended toward President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Although the vote was not about the president, it is all but impossible to separate one from the other. When penning this contribution early on Monday the AK Party's nationwide aggregate stood at 44.42 percent – a remarkable result and particularly so when taking into account that the ruling party has been in power ever since its landslide victory at the ballot box in late 2002.
We simply have to put this into other European democracies' context to better understand the significance of Sunday's vote; in some instances the average duration of a government is not even four years with Germany a noteworthy exception of an average of nine years (post World War II), which of course includes Chancellor Angela Merkel's long stay at the helm to push up the average figures.
In our Turkish case we are still counting, and today marks the number 17 as an intermediate record.
Let us first begin with what may be remembered as the most important outcome of March 31 2019: The Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) score a meager 4.22 percent. What's more, the AK Party managed to win over voters in a number of municipalities making it very obvious that people in the southeast of the country are tired of being told by individuals supporting violence as a solution to conflict that the HDP is actually a peace movement. If this is what that party intends to do, it must at once sever all ties with radical and terror leaning segments of society.
All this so dramatically underlines that the government's long-term vision of how to bring lasting peace to a previously often volatile region travels via democracy instead of embracing civil war.
Secondly, the party system has been recalibrated as for the first time political alliances took their manifestos to the people. Hence the AK Party and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) formed the People's Alliance whereas the Republican People's Party (CHP) teamed up with the Good Party (İP) in order to present the Nation Alliance. Taken together the former came in as absolute winner standing at 51.67 percent whilst the latter scoring 37.53 percent of the total vote.
We also have to analyze those alliance's performances instead of only the four individual parties they represent. Should this trend continue until the next general election scheduled for the centennial year 2023 and alliances progress into a more solid form of permanent cooperation it seems that a majority of Turkish voters prefer a modern form of democratic conservatism over left-leaning experiments.
And third, with a turnout of almost 85 percent Turkish democracy must be labelled as a model version of how to attract the electorate to become an active part of forming exactly that form of government regardless of whether it is on a local, regional or national level indeed.
So what about the three biggest metropolises?
In many other countries a national government of one political color would have to run a nation with major cities being managed by the opposition. Some go actually so far to say that a regional stronghold held for some time is the best preparation to, at one day in the future, take over central government as well.
Here in Turkey and after last Sunday we continue to see a completely different picture. Granted, losing the capital Ankara and a cliffhanger in Istanbul when the paper was going to the
press, the AK Party will not be happy. But as they continue to have the widespread support of the majority of voters the above mentioned metropolis' results will in all likelihood not deter that party (and as hinted at in my introductory lines, neither the president) to further solidify its set of policies with a view to firstly, economic reform and social welfare for every citizen, and most naturally secondly, erase all remaining seeds of terror on its own soil whilst safeguarding peace across its southern borders. Above all else, now that the Ankara and İzmir and perhaps even the Istanbul political ball is in the court of the opposition, only time will tell whether they would revert to old-fashioned rhetoric or aim at proactive town hall management for which the AK Party is famous for. Yet, new issues played a role in determining Sunday's outcome, too. Ever more young people want to have an active say in politics, issues may change. What the vote however so clearly demonstrated is that the underlying cleavages of society, a moral and ethical codex, an ever growing appetite for daring more democracy is what unites the country, and ever more so, once unfairly challenged from overseas – which brings me to my closing observations.
Why many in the West have got it all wrong again
One could almost feel it. Closer to the announcement of the results many commentators in Europe suggested that President Erdoğan's AK Party may lose big time as if in "hoping for that he will lose big time." As usual, images were shown online about HDP supporters, who are supposedly always mistreated by the government and the president, dancing in the streets.
Besides, rumors of irregularities at the ballot boxes were floated around. In other words: Nothing was out of the ordinary misreporting about modern Turkey.
The morning after headlines quickly had to be softened, in some instances completely rewritten. Yes, true, some metropolises went in the direction of the opposition parties but what is the big deal when the nationwide numbers identify the AK Party as the individual majority winner and the People's Alliance as overall majority winner?
Many commentators apparently overlook one small but all so relevant detail: The more unfair and biased reporting about whatever positive happens in Turkey is turned into something negative the more the Turkish people, no matter which political preference, unite behind their president, their system and their country in general.
Hence, basically we should say "thank you" – pun intended.
No more elections for four years; plus, stability, democracy, some changes to the way how parties present themselves. And of course this contagious way of looking ahead instead of looking back; Turkey's way of doing politics has become a brand in its very own right.
* Political analyst, journalist based in London
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