The March 30 elections and the AK Party
The Justice and Development Party (AK Party), with the elections on March 30, will have run in a total of eight elections since its founding. If the polls and the rallies are any indication, it seems that AK Party will prevail once again. The local elections are the strongest hold the opposition has against the AK Party. This presents an interesting conundrum. The strong hold the opposition has in the local elections is actually the result of its losing ground in general elections. In other words, all three of the opposition parties do not appeal to Turkey in general, but to populations in particular regions and cities.
The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) does have any support outside the eastern and southeastern regions. The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) finds support only in some cities of Central Anatolian, the Mediterranean and the Aegean regions. The main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), finds very weak support in the east, the southeast and Central Anatolia. The CHP, most of whose support comes from the Aegean and Marmara regions, does not stand a chance of winning the elections in important cities such as Istanbul and Ankara. The AK Party stands as the only party with the capacity to represent constituents from all electoral regions in Turkey. In cities in which it does not collect the majority of the votes, it is the runner-up. This political landscape is highly likely to hold in the elections on March 30.
It is difficult to identify a trend in AK Party’s performances in the local elections. For instance, in the local elections of 2004 it collected more votes than it did in the general elections of 2002. However, in the local elections of 2009, it dropped eight points below the historical landmark of 47 percent it had received in the general elections of 2007. As long as it does not drop far below the 39 percent it received in the last local elections and remains the first party, the AK Party will come out victorious. If the AK Party does, indeed, collect around 45 percent of the votes as some polls seem to indicate, the 2014 elections will be a landmark of success in Turkish political history. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan states, as he has done in previous elections, that he will resign if the AK Party does not emerge victorious.
The opposition parties made their most tragic mistake when they ran the local elections race as if it were a general election. The opposition, having publicly announced its affair with the Gülen group with the Dec. 17 operation, steered the elections in a direction it can no longer control. The AK Party could not have steered the political agenda from local issues to national issues during the race even if it had tried. The fact that the race focused on the national issues benefited the AK Party who finds a constituency in all electoral regions in Turkey.
The AK Party, whose campaign strategy included regionally specialized projects, answered local needs while running on a more general national platform. On the contrary, the opposition, while running on a national platform it cannot quite manage, fails to even mention the specific needs of electoral regions.
That is to say, if the AK Party emerges victorious in the March 30 elections, it will not only have won the local elections but will have invested a great deal into the presidential elections.