Recent changes have affected the opinions of Turkish voters regarding their representatives in the local elections in favor of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), putting the Turkish president’s future and the country’s political tracks at stake.
Polling started on June 23 for Turkey’s re-run local elections to elect a new mayor for Istanbul.
Ekrem İmamoğlu, candidate of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), and Binali Yıldırım of the AKP, were vying to run the metropolitan municipality of Turkey’s most populous city after a previous vote on March 31 was annulled by the country’s top election council.
In Istanbul, İmamoğlu received 48.8 percent of the vote, whereas Yıldırım got 48.55 percent, according to official figures from the Supreme Election Council (YSK).
The YSK ruled in favor of a re-run, with seven votes in favor and four against.
The results in March were canceled after AKP and its coalition partner, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), appealed to the YSK, citing irregularities and contradictions with legal measures, which was all pressured by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Erdoğan’s move was heavily criticized by Turkish opposition that described the President’s interference in the voting process as “dictatorship” and an unusually flagrant violation to the democratic system of Turkey.
And by analyzing the situation in Turkey, we find that since Erdoğan’s came to power, all supervision over his authority was systematically eliminated, but one form remain, which is the elections that Erdoğan couldn’t escape.
A study by European Eye on Radicalization said Erdoğan relied in his approach to attaining power over electoral legitimacy, as he considered it the voices of the silent majority that was deprived of its rights by religious Turks during the Ataturkian hegemony.
Istanbul provides an enormous amount of the cash needed to keep AKP functioning. The city is governed by a web of pro-AKP businessmen working side-by-side with state officials to create jobs and services through construction and infrastructure projects, which boost AKP’s popularity and make both the businessmen and the AKP wealthy.
It is, then, a serious blow for the AKP to have lost the Istanbul vote a second time—and to have lost by such a decisive margin (nearly ten percentage points). As important as Istanbul is for AKP, Erdogan could have tried to keep more of a distance, yet he went all-in and it still did no good. Even Fatih, the ultra-conservative Istanbul district, voted for CHP for the first time in anyone’s living memory.
There have been other signs since the election that the AKP is in retreat, and the opposition has clearly been emboldened. It is an open question how much Erdogan can be rolled back; he and his loyalists still have control of levers within the state and outside it that can be used to undermine Imamoglu. And however far the opposition gets politically, undoing the ideological damage done, in Turkey and beyond, will take even longer.