Gossip on local elections

Gossip on local elections

Even though Idlib, economic issues and educational matters have currently been the main topics in the national context, the first item on the local agenda is the upcoming mayoral elections.

The first topic on the agenda is whether an early local election will be held. As you know, in normal conditions, the elections will be held in March 2019. However, there are many people who claim “the elections might surprisingly be held on an earlier date, for instance in November 2018, just like the last elections.” 

My impressions from Ankara, from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) or the Republican People’s Party (CHP) lobbies are that there will not be an early poll. In order to change the early election date, there has to be a constitutional change, so the CHP needs to support the AKP and MHP if they urge for an early poll. Even if the CHP were to offer its support, the MHP is also reluctant about early elections.

Surprise AKP candidates in the CHP’s strongholds 

The second topic on the agenda is potential candidates. Especially in the CHP’s strongholds, the AKP is expected to present candidates to whom even usual CHP voters may vote for. The party officers may get the votes in central strongholds like the Aegean province of İzmir, the Çankaya district of Ankara or the districts of Kadıköy and Beşiktaş in Istanbul.

Central-left/democrat people, who are not of AKP-origins, are told to be open for candidateship. The fact that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently appointed Ziya Selçuk, Ruhsar Pekcan and Bekir Pakdemirli as the ministers even though there are equally capable and significant names within AKP is seen as an indication of this prediction. 

In the last 10 days, I have been hearing the name of a leading businesswoman as one of the AKP candidates for Istanbul. There are two main grounds for the AKP’s strategy:

- The disputes within the CHP; The negative attitude and campaigns of those who cannot be nominated as candidates and the re-nominated chairs, as well as the possibility CHP voters will not vote as a result of the in-party disputes.

- The possibility the İYİ (Good) Party will present candidates who may divide the votes of the CHP in cities and districts.

How the CHP succeeds 

The leadership row in the CHP has already inflicted enough damage to the biggest rival of the AKP. 

The CHP management should primarily determine the damage this argument has caused and regain the offended loyal voters through a thorough strategy. CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has several options:

- To immediately determine and announce successful CHP mayors who will be nominated again and those who will not be nominated again due to their failures. To announce the names of candidates early on by conducting opinion research in places where the CHP has a chance to win.

- To re-evaluate the approach of “let’s have a rightist candidate acquire the votes of conservative nationalistic votes.” In these elections, if four rightist conservative parties do not form an alliance, leftist candidates may get through from these four parties in some cities.

- To show candidates who may be able to regain the votes the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lost in Istanbul, Mersin or Adana during the general elections.

The end of an era?

In the new system, contrary to expectations, the central government is becoming stronger. Ankara has a much higher voice in the most important activities of municipalities. In terms of a product/service purchase, municipalities have to receive permission from the Finance Ministry.

Until recently, mayors could not even take a vacation abroad with their own money, without receiving permission from the Internal Affairs Ministry. Soon it may be possible that even the staff, which will be hired for city hall, may be appointed from the center due to security concerns. The fact that the reconstruction warrant of the Environment and Urbanization Ministry constantly expands weakens the most important function and the budget of local governments.