AKP moves to steal CHP strongholds

AKP moves to steal CHP strongholds

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
AKP moves to steal CHP strongholds

This file photo shows Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during one of the rallies before the 2009 local elections.

Turkey’s ruling party has just secured an agreement with the Republican People’s Party (CHP) to bring forward the date of local elections but is now looking to get an advance leg up on its social democratic rival by gerrymandering some electoral districts, particularly in the CHP’s coastal strongholds.

The early local elections are seen as the last test for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan before the 2014 presidential elections, and the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) has begun working on a new law to extend the boundaries of metropolitan municipalities in order to gain as much success as possible in the local polls. If approved, the law would increase the number of metropolitan municipalities from 16 to 29 and change their structures to the advantage of the AKP.

As Parliament begins its new legislative year on Oct. 1, the AKP is expected to submit the necessary constitutional and legal amendments to make the changes immediately. The changes must be concluded by Oct. 27, because regulations affecting elections can only go into force 12 months after they are passed. The AKP moved to bring forward elections from March 2014 to Oct. 27, 2013.

After its landmark success in the general elections in 2011, in which it received nearly 50 percent of votes cast, the AKP’s purpose with the new changes is to increase the number of metropolitan municipalities it controls by winning İzmir, Antalya and Adana. İzmir and Antalya are strongholds of the CHP, while Adana is ruled by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

Expanding the boundaries
Apart from considering nominating some very powerful candidates to attract votes in these cities, the AKP is also planning to expand the boundaries of metropolitan municipalities out into more rural areas, where it feels it may garner more votes. The centers of these towns are more likely to vote for the CHP and MHP, due to the electorate’s socioeconomic status, while rural areas make up the more traditional voting base of the AKP. The draft law is being written by deputy AKP leader Hüseyin Tanrıverdi.

The draft law would make Aydın, Denizli, Muğla, Tekirdağ, Trabzon, Şanlıurfa, Kahramanmaraş, Balıkesir, Van, Manisa, Hatay, Malatya and Mardin metropolitan municipalities.

Ending the municipal status of villages with populations of less than 10,000 or 5,000 is also among the ideas the ruling party is considering.

The AKP is also planning to increase its votes in these cities by nominating figures such as Binali Yıldırım, the transportation minister, for the post of mayor in İzmir. Economy Minister Ali Babacan is among the potential contenders in Ankara, as are EU Minister Egemen Bağış in Istanbul and deputy AKP leader Ömer Çelik in Adana. Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay, a former leftist, could be the nominee for Antalya. Many AKP officials will not be able to take positions in the Cabinet due to the party’s three-term restriction.