Elections are always a serious businessin Turkey and the local elections thattook place Sunday were no exception.The elections were held to elect mayorsand city councils on separate tickets,meaning support or a candidate ortheir party can and does show variancethroughout the country.The electorate gave a stern warning tothe ruling Justice and DevelopmentParty (AKP) and notably to Prime Min-ister Erdogan, who ran an energetic butharsh, angry, and polarizing campaignthat was reciprocated by his adversaries.One major beneiciary o the electionswas the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which increased both the per-centage o the vote it received and thenumber o municipalities it holds. Thevoters also brought the Islamist Felicity Party (SP) back to le, which is undernew, robust leadership.The Kurdish Nationalist Party (DTP),whose relation to the terrorist organiza-tion PKK is similar to that o Sinn Feinand the IRA, claimed its natural terrainback rom the AKP. In the general elec-tions o 2007, AKP had done exception-ally well in the predominantly KurdishSoutheast.The main opposition RepublicanPeople’s Party (CHP) slightly improvedits position, but once again showed itcould not become a valid challenger tothe AKP as a national party. However,some o its candidates and local organi-zations, notably in Istanbul and Izmir,showed that the party still had theopportunity to revitalize itsel i its cur-rent septuagenarian politburo wouldinally go into long-overdue retirement.With more than 80 percent participa-tion nationwide, according to unoicialresults, the AKP received 39% o thevote or city councils. CHP got 23%,MHP 16%, DTP 5.6%, and SP 5.2%.In several metropolitan centers, CHP’ssupport was well above the nationalaverage or the party. Like the national-ist MHP, it had no presence whatsoeverin the southeast, just as the DTP hadno showing in Central, Northern, andWestern Turkey.AKP had a net loss o 12 city munici-palities. Prior to the elections the PrimeMinister speciically targeted certaincities and districts that had symbolicimportance, such as Diyarbakır in theSoutheast, Izmir on the Aegean coast,and Eskisehir in Central Anatolia. Notonly did he ail to win these munici-
The electorate’s tune-up
by Soli Ozel*March 31, 2009
Soli Ozel teaches at Istanbul Bilgi University’s Department of International Relations and Political Science and is a foreign editor of
. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the German MarshallFund of the United States (GMF).
Summary: Elections are always aserious business in Turkey and thelocal elections that just took placewere no exception. The electorategave a stern warning to the ruling Justice and Development Party(AKP) and notably Prime MinisterErdogan, who ran an energeticbut harsh, angry, and polarizing campaign.In light of the election results, thequestion before Turkey is whatcourse the AKP will take, or to bemore precise, how the Prime Minis- ter will interpret the results and howhe will respond.