Municipal elections come after the presidential election struggle, which was full of challenges and strong competition (Anatolia)

Istanbul -

In the heart of the sweeping events taking place in the region, the Turkish local elections are scheduled for the last Sunday of next March in 81 states, constituting a major turning point in the course of Turkish democracy and a mirror that reflects the profound transformations in the political and social fabric of the country.

Some political parties have begun to form their alliances, while others are still seeking to resolve differences and weave alliances to support them in local elections that determine mayors, municipal council members, and village and district mayors.

The municipal elections come after the presidential election struggle, which was full of challenges and strong competition, which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won with more than 52% of the voters’ votes. The ruling Justice and Development Party, led by Erdogan, also succeeded in strengthening its parliamentary position by winning 268 seats out of a total of 600 seats. In Parliament.

The Justice and Development Party lost in the 2019 municipal elections of Ankara and Istanbul to the opposition Republican Party (Shutterstock)

Competition history

The upcoming elections represent a major political battle and serve as a barometer that measures the temperature of the general political atmosphere and warns of fluctuations that may occur on the Turkish political scene.

It also has strategic dimensions that go beyond the boundaries of local administration, as it paves the way for the presidential elections expected in 2028, as it indicates the trends of public opinion and reflects the extent of voters’ satisfaction with the current political performance.

The Justice and Development Party achieved great success in the 2014 local elections, winning a large percentage of municipalities across Turkey.

However, there were some important exceptions such as his inability to win the municipality of Izmir, which remained a stronghold for the CHP.

Signs of strong competition from other parties began to appear in different regions of the country.

Turkey witnessed notable political transformations during the 2019 elections, as they were held in light of an economic crisis and under the influence of new electoral alliances, serving as a real test for the ruling party, especially after the adoption of the presidential system in the year preceding the democratic struggle.

Its results showed the victory of the "People's Alliance" formed by the Justice and Development Party with the National Movement Party by a significant margin of 51.74% of the voters' votes, compared to 37.64% for the "Nation Alliance", which includes the Republican People's Party and the Good Party.

But the ruling party faced major challenges, especially in the capital, Ankara, and Istanbul, where it lost these municipalities to the Republican candidates. These results were surprising given the Justice and Development Party’s previous control over these cities for decades.

Overall, the results indicate increasing competition between political parties in Turkey and fluctuations in voter attitudes.

Ekrem Imamoglu, the current mayor of Istanbul (center), is the opposition candidate in the upcoming elections (Anatolia)

More ferocious

As for the 2024 elections, competition is expected to be more fierce with parties focusing on issues such as the economy, refugees, local governance, and social policies.

According to expectations, the upcoming elections will represent a test for the main political parties and an indication of the direction Turkey may take in the future.

“Whoever rules Istanbul rules Turkey,” a phrase frequently repeated by the opposition, reflects the strategic and symbolic importance of the city as a major economic and political center, and was translated into reality by Erdogan, who assumed the mayor’s office and then ascended to the highest political hierarchy in the country in the following decade.

The Justice and Development Party is seeking to regain the mayorship of Istanbul, which it lost during the 2019 elections, and still controls 24 of the 39 neighborhoods, while the opposition Republican People’s Party seeks to renew its period of control over it for another 5 years.

The Istanbul municipality was taken over by parties that shared a political ideology between 1994 and 2019, namely the Virtue Party, the New Welfare Party, and the Justice and Development Party.

Istanbul witnessed major transformations under its administration, as many development and infrastructure projects were implemented.

But the 2019 elections brought a major change, as the Republican People's Party won the city's presidency, reflecting a shift in voter attitudes and highlighting new dynamics in Istanbul's local politics.

As the elections approach, voters are focusing on issues such as the economy, high prices, security, transportation, and preparations for the upcoming Istanbul earthquake.

Perhaps the performance of the current mayor and opposition candidate in the upcoming elections, Ekrem Imamoglu, during the recent period, and the widespread criticism he faced in resolving most of these crises, will reflect negatively on voters’ votes at the ballot boxes.

The Justice and Development Party announces the candidacy of current parliamentarian Murat Kurum (centre) in the 2024 municipal elections (Anatolia)

Electoral customs

The Justice and Development Party announced the nomination of the former Minister of Environment and Urban Urbanization and current parliamentarian Murat Kurum for the mayor of Istanbul for the “Public Alliance”, which is in line with the aspirations of voters, especially on the issue of earthquakes in light of the increasing warnings from specialists about the possibility of a major earthquake in Istanbul, and the government accelerating its work. On urban transformation processes.

It is noteworthy that the name Qurum has been associated with several historical projects in Turkey, the most important of which is the Istanbul Canal project and the city’s urban transformation projects.

The representative of the Justice and Development Party, Melih Gokcek, served as mayor of the capital, Ankara, for three consecutive terms, but the increasing amount of criticism that targeted him during his last term was a major reason for him losing the mayorship to the Republican candidate, Mansur Yavaş, in the 2019 elections.

The general satisfaction of Turkish citizens in the city of Ankara can be traced to Yavaş, who during his period was able to bring about remarkable changes and developments in the city in terms of transportation networks, fighting high prices, and public services.

He is running for the presidency of Ankara for a new term, while the Justice and Development Party has not announced its candidate yet.

The city of Izmir is known as the “Citadel of the Republican Party” or the “Citadel of the Turkish Opposition,” and perhaps the party’s victory in the votes of the state’s voters, whether in the parliamentary or local elections in the last 7 years, proves the truth of this statement.

However, when we look at the election habits and preferences of political parties in Izmir, we can notice that there is no sharp political orientation in the city, as the election results are always close.

For example, the city of Izmir surprised the opposition during the past presidential elections by increasing the percentage of votes cast for Erdogan to 33%.

The Republican People's Party announced the nomination of the current mayor of Izmir, Tunj Soyar - who has headed it for 20 years - to run in the upcoming local elections, and the Justice and Development Party has not yet officially announced its candidate.

The numbers of an opinion poll conducted by the "ASAL" research company reflected the tension in the upcoming electoral race in the city of Istanbul. According to the data, Imamoglu has a slight lead and has a percentage of 36.4%, followed by Qurum with 32.8%.

Source: Al Jazeera