Turkish citizens are heading to ballots to cast their votes in the local elections. They are voting for their choice of local administrators, marking an end to the election campaigns that have further polarized the country over the last few months.
The 2018 general and presidential elections signified the date of 2017 constitutional referendum that granted Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan sweeping executive powers when he secured the majority vote.
Following this landmark victory, the local elections happening today carry relatively little
gravity. However, over the last few weeks as the polls loomed closer, Erdogan’s rhetoric, according to his critics, has turned what should be an election on the local level into more of a vote on Erdogan’s rule.
Erdogan’s grueling expedition throughout the country, during which he addressed the
crowds up to eight times a day also embodied the emphasis he gave to the local elections.
He has grappled with what appears to be an economic recession ushering an unprecedented financial crisis that posed the most significant threat to his rule.
According to some Turkish pollsters, today will not play out well for the ruling AK Party and
its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), after they adopted “the survival of the state”
discourse to veer the subject off the soaring inflation.
This comes despite the many hours of coverage Erdogan’s campaigning received compared to the little or no airing time allocated to the opposition – a recent feature of Turkey’s elections bitterly criticized by rights groups and international bodies labeling it as an “uneven playing field.”
Based on the narrative that equates the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) with the outlawed Kurdish militant group Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Erdogan accused the opposition of allying with terrorist groups and that the HDP ceded to run in the metropolitan cities in favor of the opposition.
The running parties and the election in numbers
AK Party and MHP’s alliance (the People’s Alliance) support joint candidates in 47 cities, while the Nation Alliance, formed by the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Good Party (IYI), does the same in 51 cities across Turkey.
According to state-run news agency Anadolu, nearly 57 million people are registered to vote.
533 thousand units will secure the voting process nationwide. The voting process will end
throughout the country at 17:00 local time.
After the elections, 1,389 candidates will be chosen for mayoral posts for a five-year period.
However, after the failed 2016 coup, there has been a precedent set by the Erdogan
administration to appoint trustees for the mayoral posts that are occupied by HDP members.
The rhetoric adopted by the president and his cabinet signal that trustees, rather than elected candidates, might again be appointed to certain mayoral posts if the ruling party
loses to opposition candidates.
Turkey’s two largest cities, Istanbul and Ankara, are currently governed by AK Party member
mayors, even though those elected in 2014 resigned in 2017 due to Erdogan’s “metal
fatigue” remarks, forcing them to step down.
The surveys conducted by most of the polling firms give a predicted lead to the opposition
candidate, Mansur Yavas, in Ankara. Almost two weeks ago, pro-government media outlets
announced that Yavas was being investigated for alleged misconduct dating back to 2009.
This announcement came a day after Erdogan said Yavas will “pay the price” for his
In Istanbul, there seems to be a tight race, according to the pollsters, with the AK Party
candidate, Binali Yildirim, having a slight edge against the opposition’s Ekrem Imamoglu.
The HDP could win the race in southeastern Kurdish-majority cities, according to polling
data and the AKP could lose in some major cities other than Istanbul and Ankara.
However, dusting off the uncertainty has been difficult for the research firms as the floating
votes were still not clear just days ago.
In the 2018 elections, Erdogan received 52.59 percent of the votes in the presidential race,
while the alliance of his party with the MHP obtained 53.66 percent of the votes, with 42,56
percent being the AKP’s apportion.