While Turkey’s local elections produced some changes vis-a-vis previous years, these changes weren’t entirely surprising. The overall results show a nationwide victory for the ruling AK Party – MH Party alliance while the main opposition CH party nevertheless made some very significant gains. Most notably, the new mayor of Ankara will be from the CH opposition whilst the CH strengthened its already strong hand in Turkey’s third largest city, Izmir. Most interestingly, the vote for mayor of Istanbul remains neck-and-neck. While AK candidate Binali Yildirim was the first to declare victory, as the final ballots continue to be counted, it appears that his CH rival Ekrem İmamoğlu is slightly ahead.
These results are indicative of a healthy democracy in which opposition candidates are judged by the people on the basis of their policy merits, rather than being subjected to humiliation or degradation at the hands of the ruling party. As such, Turks have expressed their overall confidence in the AK party, including in Kurdish dominated regions that tended to reject the extremist PKK aligned HD Party.
Beyond this, the stronger showing by the CH party, particularly in the mayoral elections in Istanbul and Ankara is a further indication of the fact that in Turkey’s major population centres, people are looking for new economic solutions to the challenges of the last year and are willing to seek these solutions from a mixture of the two main parties. The fact that the provincial assemblies of both Istanbul and Ankara were won by the AK Party whilst the mayoralty of both cities appears to have narrowly gone to CH candidates makes it clear that the residents of Turkey’s two most populace cities seek democratic consensus that prioritises problem solving over ideology.
Overall the election has produced some significant gains for the opposition CH throughout the country and in Turkey’s three largest cities in particular, whilst the biggest losers of the night were the radical HD Party. The AK Party received a message from the people as a whole which is not one of rejection but one which seeks to push the AK Party towards more of a consensus model. This trend was already clear based on last year’s Grand National Assembly elections when the AP Party formed an alliance with the MH Party. The CH Party’s generally good showing during the local elections will serve to strengthen the AK-MH alliance while now allowing the CH to prove its worth as executives of Turkey’s two biggest cities.
Such a result will help to test each major party’s policies in action as it is now clear that no party’s position can or should be taken for granted. This itself is a reflection of the robust health of Turkey’s democracy.
While yesterday’s vote does not directly effect the national government, it does send a clear indicative mandate to both the country’s Grand National Assembly and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The overall message is that the people have rejected extremism and have embraced a spirit of consensus in the name of springing the economy back into action on a sure footing. To put it bluntly, sources of division have been the biggest losers while a faith in nation and the voting process have clearly guided Turkey to an election in which all of the mainstream parties have something to celebrate and something to learn from.