By Betül Dogan
What we have seen by election results
Turkey finally reached a post-local election period, after many controversial discussions both on the elections and on the social polarization as an outcome of high political tensions between the AK Party and the Gulen Movement.
In the end, Justice and Development Party (AKP), which already rules government and right-wing conservative party of Prime Minister Erdoğan got %45.6; Republican People’s Party (CHP), the social-democrat opposition party %27.8; the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) %15.2 and Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) ,pro-Kurdish party, got %4.23 of the votes.
AKP held presidencies in two crucial cities, İstanbul and Ankara, as a sign of its victory; however, İzmir, another metropolis, was taken by CHP, the AK Party’s big challenge in the Eastern part of Turkey, Diyarbakır, was BDP’s stronghold. The AK Party holds presidencies with 609 municipalities, CHP 174, MHP 113, BDP 75, the Felicity Party (SP) 8 and surprisingly, first time in its history, the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) won the vote for one municipality in one of the districts in the Eastern part of Turkey; Ovacık. When we look at the election results for the cities, dominance of the AK Party is again visible: AK Party has 21 metropolitan and 32 cities; CHP 5 metropolitan and 7 cities; MHP 2 metropolitan and 6 cities and BDP 2 metropolitan and 6 cities. Democrat Party, although it does not receive important coverage in the media, could not win any municipality of cities but some of the districts of the presidencies are taken.
What results said
There is no doubt that “reassuring” is the verb to define what this local elections meant for AKP. Since the Gulen movement efforts to jeopardize AK Party candidates, there was surmise on that AK Party could leave some of its supports in the shadow of corruption claims and Gulen tension. That is the first reason for why March 2014 election brought a new type of safety to the AK Party’s politics. There is another important question in the 30 March election that is strongly connected with the coming elections and political environment of Turkey in the near future.
We can baptize the 30 March election as the first step of three vital elections in Turkish politics: the second step is the presidential election in August and the third is the general elections in 2015 June. Thus, what political parties had in this election was an indication for their performance on the upcoming presidential election on 10 August 2014.
Results might be interpreted as a disappointment for the social-democrat voice of the Turkish Parliament: Republican People’s Party (CHP). This is not because of a comparison of its performance with the previous local election held in 2009. The disappointment became visible, when we compare CHP’s expectation from the election with the results because CHP was quite supportive of the Gulen tension and wanted to use it as an opportunity to expand its voter demographic. Despite the ontological difference between the Gulen movement and the CHP (not to mention this absence of a history as allies in the Turkish politics), in the past months, we witnessed statements of the party’s president in support of the corruption claims in addition to voicing solidarity with the Gulen movement
There was an expectation by some scholars before the election that opposition by the Gulen Movement could lead to decrease in AK Party’s votes. However, as we see by the election results, although the Gulen movement is also rooted in the conservative spectrum of Turkish society, AK Party renewed its influence on its electorates, basically center-right conservative voters. Hence, we can see that that Turkish society chose to support a legitimate political party rather than pledging allegiance to a social movement such as the Gulen Movement.
Environment after election and the presidential elections
Despite high tension of the pre-election period, the political atmosphere has settled down. It will of course take time to diminish social pressure and polarization in the society especially in the metropolitans. This is partly due to the Turkish media’s insistence on continuing to run stories of polarization even tough for the average citizen, elections is no longer the top story.
The leadership role of Erdoğan remains the central locus of Turkish politics. Songs used by AK Party for the election campaign mainly reminded voters of Erdoğan’s strong character, political motivations, father-hood position for public and his combatant nature for the sake of Turkey. We saw that Erdoğan is a powerful name for the presidential elections with regarding public support for him in the local elections. It would be not the first time in Turkish political history that a prime minister became president; İsmet İnönü, Turgut Özal and Süleyman Demirel.
Current President of Turkish Republic, Abdullah Gül, is another name in on-going presidency discussions in Turkey. In April 18, Abdullah Gül had a speech during his visit and his focus was the speculation about his future candidacy for the Prime Minister’s Office; “I do not believe that it is appropriate in terms of democracy.” said Gül. President was also moderate and positive for environment for presidential elections with saying “It will be a regular election process without uncertainties and crises.” The other discussion in presidential election agenda is Gül’s possible candidacy for the seat. Gül commented that these are all natural discussions for a participatory democracy to continue; “…I would like to say that I served in each governmental echelon with a huge honor but I have no political plan for the future…”
After this explanation by Gül, interrogation about his candidacy continued. What Gül implied with this statement is not clear and it would be not a surprise if he announced his candidacy in the near future. However, while Erdoğan is also a strong name for presidency, it would be curious for both to run for the position simultaneously. Needless to say, Turkish politics will be in a dynamic atmosphere until the presidential elections.
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