Turkish local elections – 2019
S M Hali
The Turkish local elections of 2019 were held on 31 March 2019 throughout the 81 provinces of Turkey. A total of 30 metropolitan and 1,351 district municipal mayors, alongside 1,251 provincial and 20,500 municipal councilors were elected, in addition to numerous local non-partisan positions such as neighbourhood wardens (muhtars) and elderly people’s councils.
Turkey holds local elections every five years in the final Sunday of March. The last election, held on 30 March 2014, resulted in a victory for the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), which won control of both Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey’s top two cities. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) came second, winning control of Izmir, Turkey’s third largest city.
The 2019 elections follow two landmark elections that were held on 24 June 2018, namely a presidential and a parliamentary vote, where the incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an was re-elected with 52.59% of the vote. With his re-election, he assumed widely expanded executive powers that were approved by voters in the constitutional referendum in 2017. His AK Party lost its majority in the Grand National Assembly but retains its majority with support from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), together with which the AKP forms an electoral alliance named the People’s Alliance. The 2019 local elections were the last scheduled elections to be held in Turkey until 23 June 2023.
The governing AKP and MHP contested the elections in many provinces under the joint People’s Alliance. Likewise, the CHP and the ?Y? Party entered some of the races under the National Alliance banner. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) did not openly announce support for either alliance but did not field candidates in some areas to improve chances of opposition candidates.
The Turkish local elections of 2019 were held on 31 March 2019 throughout the 81 provinces of Turkey. A total of 30 metropolitan and 1,351 district municipal mayors, alongside 1,251 provincial and 20,500 municipal councilors were elected, in addition to numerous local non-partisan positions such as neighbourhood wardens (muhtars) and elderly people’s councils
Campaigning focused on the grim economic situation in Turkey.
Indicative results showed that the opposition alliance performed strongly in metropolitan areas, dealing a substantial setback to the governing alliance by taking control of Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey’s capital and largest city respectively. The Nation Alliance also retained control of Izmir, while also taking control of other major cities such as Adana, Antalya and Mersin. Regardless, the governing People’s Alliance still gained ground in rural areas and smaller cities, increasing their number of district municipalities since the last election. The Communist Party won control of a provincial capital, namely Tunceli, for the first time. In provinces where the AKP and MHP contested as separate parties, there was a substantial swing from AKP candidates to the MHP.
Turkey’s main concern is an economic meltdown, which reportedly is engineered by the US. There are reverberations that the 2016 attempted coup d’état was also instigated by the US. The current currency plunge imperiling Turkey’s economy was fueled by a standoff between Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdo?an over the fate of a Turkish woman detained in Israel whose freedom the US president brokered, and an American pastor Brunson held in Turkey whose release he demanded in return. Brunson was detained in October 2016, three months after the abortive coup attempt against the Turkish President, widely believed to have been led by the exiled leader of the Gülen political movement, Fethullah Gülen, who has lived in the US state of Pennsylvania for the past two decades and is believed to be a US factotum. Donald Trump had doubled the, tariffs on steel and aluminum, negatively affecting the value of the Turkish Lira.
Erdogan fought back in a bid to stabilize his country’s economy. He refused to seek an IMF bailout.
“I told the IMF chair in Davos [at the time] ‘You are not the prime minister of Turkey, I am. You do not have a job to run Turkey, take your money and leave the rest’… Now we have no debts to the IMF,” Erdogan told a crowd in the western province of Denizli, as quoted by Hurriyet.
Donald Trump is highly concerned regarding Turkey’s acquisition of the Russian S-400 to-air missile system. U.S. closely followed the 14 February trilateral summit of Turkey, Russia and Iran, knowing that the S-400 deal must have come up for discussion between President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an’s and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. For this very reason, two days before the summit, U.S Vice President Mike Pence made a phone call to Erdo?an, reportedly stating that President Trump wants the S-400 deal to be terminated. Erdo?an responded by saying that this deal was made after Turkey’s security needs were determined and that the deal is at a point of no return.
US threatened sanctions based on the CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act) legislation the U.S. Congress ratified in 2017 if Turkey went ahead with the S-400 deal.
Some analysts opine that the loss of the prime cities by the ruling party in Turkey’s local elections, may have been engineered by Trump. For the time being Erdo? an stands firm.