An analysis of Turkey’s election: Erdoğan wins rematch in Istanbul

An analysis of Turkey’s election: Erdoğan wins rematch in Istanbul

The title of my column on July 22, two days before the snap presidential and parliamentary election, was: “Will Erdoğan be able to win the rematch in Istanbul?”

The piece noted that in Istanbul in the April 16, 2017 referendum the number of “No” votes was higher than the number of “Yes” votes. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan therefore for the first time effectively “lost” a race in Istanbul during the Justice and Development Party (AKP) era. As a result, the June 24 elections became a kind of “rematch” for Erdoğan.

Yes, Erdoğan won this rematch, getting just over 50 percent of the presidential vote in Istanbul. But it should also be underlined that the results in Istanbul are rather worrying for the AKP.

In the April 2016 referendum, “Yes” votes under the umbrella of the AKP and its ally the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) stood at 48.65 percent in Istanbul, while “No” votes stood at 51.35 percent.

This time, the vote secured by the AKP-MHP “Peoples’ Alliance” garnered 51 percent of the vote, with the AKP getting 42.7 percent and the MHP getting 8.3 percent. The vote of the alliance was therefore 2 points higher than the votes that the “Yes” bloc garnered in the referendum.

With support from the MHP, the AKP secured more votes in the election than it won in the referendum but this did not change the fact that the party’s votes declined significantly compared to the November 2015 election. The party’s share of the vote in Istanbul dropped to 42.7 percent from 48.8 percent.

In November 2015, 4.5 million people voted for the AKP in Istanbul. Two years later, according to unofficial results, 4 million people voted for the party. That points to a half-million decline in the AKP’s votes, which is even more remarkable as the number of registered voters increased by 240,000 between the November 2015 and June 2018 elections.

Another party that saw its votes decline in Istanbul is the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). The CHP’s votes declined from 30.44 percent in the November election to 26.73 percent in the June poll, losing around 280,000 votes.

The largest decline in CHP votes was registered in districts seen as the party’s strongholds such as Beşiktaş (9.62 percent), Kadıköy (7.72 percent), Şişli (7.02 percent) and Bakırköy (8.13 percent). Those are the districts where the Kurdish issue-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the İYİ (Good) Party saw increases in the share of their votes.

The MHP’s votes in Istanbul largely remained unchanged; in some districts its votes increased and in some it declined. It is striking that in two districts (Sultanbeyli and Arnavutköy) where the AKP suffered significant losses, the increase in the votes of the MHP was sharp even by the party’s own standards: 5.39 percent and 3.57 percent respectively.

The winners in Istanbul were the İYİ Party, which secured 8.13 percent, and the HDP, which increased its votes by 2.25 points to 12.53 percent. The Felicity Party’s (SP) share of the vote rose to 1.51 percent in the June election from 0.8 percent in the November 2015 poll.

As for the AKP, support for the party declined in all districts of Istanbul. The declines in the AKP votes were sharper in the peripheral districts that are known as the party’s bastions, such as Sultanbeyli (9.76 percent), Arnavutköy (8.96 percent) and Esenler (8.73 percent). AKP votes also fell in the districts of Pendik (8.49 percent), Tuzla (8.79 percent), Kağıthane (8.44 percent) and Ümraniye (7.44 percent). The decline in those districts was larger than the 7 percent decline on average that the AKP suffered across the country.

The declines in the districts where the AKP has a strong presence were milder: Üsküdar (5.70 percent), Beykoz (6.55 percent), Fatih (4.47 percent) and Zeytinburnu (5.47 percent).

In the balcony speech he delivered in the early hours of June 25, President Erdoğan said “we have received the message from our nation.” He added that “rest assured, in the next term we will make up for all our shortcomings.”

We can certainly say that Istanbul also sent out an important message in the election.

Sedat Ergin, June 24 elections, AKP, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan