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A new dawn in Turkish politics as Erdogan's rule crumbles

A new dawn in Turkish politics as Erdogan's rule crumbles


In the heart of Ankara, under the warmth of a spring sun, a seismic change occurred on March 31. Murat Oktay, a retired government official and strong supporter of the Trkiyes Justice and Development Party (AK Party) led by President Recep Tayyip. Erdogan was in a voting booth waiting to vote. Eighteen times since 2001, he had voted for Erdogan's party, but that day, he was driven by the desire to remedy the economic difficulties afflicting his country by turning his back on the political force he had helped to create. to feed. And his decision would have an echo throughout the country.

Across Trkiye, millions of voters signaled the potential end of Erdogan's long grip on power as the AKP faced a surprising defeat in local elections to the secular opposition Party People's Republican (CHP), which took control of a significant number of people. urban and rural strongholds. The CHP's victory in 14 metropolitan cities, 21 provinces and 337 district councils marked a pivotal moment in Turkish politics, illustrating a clear break with the past.

The CHP received 37.76 percent of the vote and the AKP party 35.48 percent. In last year's presidential election, the CHP received less than 25 percent of the vote while running as part of an alliance. A 12 percent increase in vote share in one year despite multiple dissensions and ruptures of alliances is a remarkable achievement for the party launched by the modern Trkiyes founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatrk, and which had fallen into oblivion over the past four decades.

The results of the 2024 Trkiye local elections, which took place on March 31, 2024.

The results of the 2024 Trkiye local elections, which took place on March 31, 2024. | Photo credit: Supreme Electoral Council of Trkiye

Barometer of national sentiment

In much of the world, local elections don't generate much interest, but in Trkiye they are a vital barometer of national sentiment because there is no state government like in India. In terms of political importance, the mayor of Istanbul can be compared to, say, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.

Furthermore, local administration constitutes the third pillar of Turkey's governance structure after the presidency and parliament. They control local taxes and are responsible for services such as transportation, land planning, waste collection, water, gas and parks, roads and other recreational facilities. Local councilors or Muhtars enjoy considerable influence in their localities.

Marking an important milestone in the megacity of Istanbul, Mayor Ekrem Imamolu, who was re-elected, has also become a serious challenger to Erdogan. Its triumph is not only local but also symbolic, given the economic weight and demographic importance of Istanbul. His political capital could prove fundamental to his speculated national ambitions.

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Analysts say a victory in Istanbul, widely seen as a microcosm of Trkiye, could have given Erdogan the political momentum and economic resources needed to move forward with his goal of amending the constitution to extend his rule. mandate. There was also speculation that his party was considering removing the word secular from the constitution.

Acknowledging his party's defeat, Erdogan said the nation had demonstrated its will in the elections without facing any constraints and that it was a major gain for Turkish democracy. The winner of this election is democracy, nations will do so regardless of the political views of the electorate, he said.

Erdogan admitted that his party had failed to achieve the expected result, especially nine months after the general and parliamentary elections, from which the AKP emerged victorious. We worked intensively for the elections. The AKP party staff worked day and night, in harmony and selflessly, said Erdogan, who himself visited 52 cities during his election campaign over the past two months.

Istanbul Mayor and Republican People's Party (CHP) candidate Ekrem Imamolu delivers a speech to supporters celebrating in front of the main municipality building following local elections in Trkiye, Istanbul, March 31 .

Istanbul Mayor and Republican People's Party (CHP) candidate Ekrem Imamolu delivers a speech to his supporters celebrating in front of the main municipality building following the local elections in Trkiye, Istanbul, March 31 . Photo credit: Yasin Akgul/AFP

The loss of key cities and regions, once seen as bastions of support for the AKP party, has highlighted broader disenchantment among the electorate, particularly with regard to economic policies and the concentration of power. The economic conflict, characterized by persistent inflation and financial instability, has become a central theme of the electoral discourse.

It had a big impact. The country has some 15 million retirees. They all teamed up with new voters and young people and switched loyalties to teach Erdogan a lesson, said Mehmet Ozturk, a political commentator. First line. The rising cost of living was the main theme among young voters.

The resurgence of the CHP beyond its traditional coastal strongholds, in the heart of Anatolia, signifies a profound realignment of Turkish politics. This expansion reflects the broader appeal of the CHP's message that resonates with voters across diverse regions and demographics. Therefore, the party's success is not only a numerical victory but a testimony to the changing political and social dynamics within Trkiye.

Strong points

  • In Trkiye, voters are signaling the end of Erdogan's potential control as the AKP faces a local defeat at the hands of the secular opposition, the CHP, gaining urban and rural strongholds. In Istanbul, the re-election of Mayor Ekrem Imamolus marks an important milestone; he appears to be Erdogan's challenger.

  • Loss of key cities underscores voter disenchantment with the AK Party, underscoring concerns over economic policies and concentration of power; A new force, Yeniden Refah Partisi, emerges.

New political force

This election also saw the emergence of a new political force, the Yeniden Refah Partisi (New Welfare Party), which managed to carve out a place for itself in the political landscape. The Islamist party led by Ali Fatih Erbakan, son of Erdogan's mentor and former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, became the third political force, obtaining 6.19 percent of the vote and taking control of a metropolitan city and a province. In some cities, the party received 20 to 30 percent of the vote.

During the 2023 presidential election, this party sided with Erdogan but quickly broke away from him. The party's performance indicates the emergence of a new Islamist party, a development that could have lasting implications on Trkiyes' political spectrum. The conventional Islamist Saadat party performed poorly in the elections, alongside two other ultranationalist parties, the MHP and the Good Party.

Ali Fatih Erbakan, leader of the New Social Welfare Party, speaks during a rally in Istanbul ahead of local elections in Trkiye.  His party's candidate for mayor of Istanbul, Mehmet Altinoz, is also visible.

Ali Fatih Erbakan, leader of the New Social Welfare Party, speaks during a rally in Istanbul ahead of local elections in Trkiye. His party's candidate for mayor of Istanbul, Mehmet Altinoz, is also visible. | Photo credit: Dilara Senkaya/Reuters

Analysts say the election result shows it was more than just a partisan victory; it serves as an implicit referendum on the administration's policies. It is also a call for reform, an embodiment of the public's aspiration for accountability, transparency and respect for democratic norms.

The geopolitical implications of these elections are also important. Erdogan's foreign policy, particularly his stance on Israel and the conflict in Gaza, has come under scrutiny, reflecting the electorate's expectation of a more assertive Turkish position on the international stage. Many voters expressed resentment that Erdogan was not doing enough to act against Israel. Although Erdogan has held public meetings and spoken out against Israeli bombing, many have taken to the streets to demand an end to diplomatic and trade relations with Israel.

A glimpse of the future?

As Trkiye navigates this new political terrain, the election results offer a glimpse into the country's future direction. The CHP's gains and electoral change signal a demand for a new approach to governance, economic policy and the role of the Trkiyes on the world stage. The political narrative unfolding in Trkiye is not just about a change in leadership; it also represents a profound transformation of the political and social fabric of the country.

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The repercussions of this situation are considerable and could modify Trkiyes' strategic choices and national priorities. As Erdogan's party reevaluates its position and strategies, the political opposition, led by the CHP and other emerging forces, finds itself on the threshold of a new era in Turkish politics. This moment is not just about winning the election; it is also a reflection of a nation's desire for renewal, accountability and a more inclusive and democratic model of governance.

In this landscape of change, the future of Turkish politics is at the cusp of a new dawn. The message from the electorate is clear: the time has come for transformation, for governance that truly reflects the will and aspirations of its people, marking the start of a new chapter in its rich political history.

Iftikhar Gilani is an Indian journalist based in Ankara.




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