GAZİANTEP – Hürriyet Daily News
Çelik has sought to manage expectations ahead of the upcoming local polls, saying it will be a 'success' if the AKP can top its 2009 election result of 38.8 percent. AA photo
Turkey’s ruling party has lowered its victory bar for the upcoming local elections, declaring that any vote higher than what it received in the 2009 local elections – 38.8 percent –should be considered a success.
“Let me tell you in advance. Our basis [of success] for the upcoming local elections is the 2009 local elections. That is 38.8 percent. We can get 50 percent of the votes in parliamentary elections that have only two factors. But local elections have at least eight factors,” Hüseyin Çelik, deputy leader and spokesperson of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), told newspaper Ankara
bureau chiefs in a visit to Gaziantep over the weekend.
“Let me give you a minor example: We lost Tatvan [a district of Bitlis] to the Peace and Democracy Party [BDP] by only 150 votes in the 2009 local polls. In the same polls, the Saadet [Felicity Party] nominee got 650 votes. In a parliamentary election, the same Saadet would not get this amount of votes,” Çelik said, explaining how local polls differ from parliamentary elections.
There are conflicting public opinion polls with regard to the upcoming local elections as some suggest that the AKP will score higher than 45 percent, while others suggest that the ruling party remain will fall below 40 percent this time. According to Çelik, however, none of these studies depict the real picture.
“It will be possible to see the general picture of the local elections after the first week of March, when the parties finalize their candidates for municipal assemblies. Public opinion polls to be conducted in early March will more or less tell us about local polls’ results,” he said.
When asked whether the AKP would regard any vote higher than 38.8 percent a success, Çelik confirmed and said that even if they received the same percentage, it would mean that they had "protected their position."
“Every single digit we get [above this] is a success. But if we get less than 38.8, this means we will have lost votes. We received 41.6 percent in the 2004 local polls. And we have acknowledged the decrease in our votes in the 2009 elections,” he said.
As for the number of municipalities the AKP may win, Çelik was more assured. “The number of municipalities we’ll have will increase. We’ll get around 60 percent of all municipalities. Because the major party is always at an advantage in constituencies where votes are shared between other parties,” he said.
“We currently have 47 municipalities [out of 81 provinces]. This number could go up to 50. My expectation is that we’ll get 20 out of 30 metropolitan municipalities. Currently, we control 10 of the 16 metropolitan municipalities,” he said. The number of metropolitan municipalities increased from 16 to 30 with a recent legal amendment.
Çelik predicted that the AKP would win new metropolitan municipalities like Ordu, Trabzon, Balıkesir and Manisa, while adding that Van would decide between the BDP and the AKP in a tight race.
In places like Diyarbakır
and İzmir, the AKP will increase its votes although it might not win the municipalities, he said. Diyarbakır
is a stronghold of the BDP whereas İzmir is a fortress for the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP).