Turkish parties shaping their local election candidates

Turkish parties shaping their local election candidates

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish parties shaping their local election candidates

Şişli Mayor Mustafa Sarıgül is expected to be one of the most important candidates in the upcoming local elections.

Unless there is an extraordinary shift in the agenda, Turkey will declare its local elections calendar on January 1, 2014, and hit the ballot box on March 30, 2014. Five months later, in August, Presidential elections will take place. After these two elections, if not predated, general elections will be held in June 2015.

When considered in this context, local elections, which will deeply impact the country’s future and are likely to have a triggering effect, have already kicked off. Perfectionist party leaders are attaching a special importance to the three strategically crucial metropolitan municipalities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. Surveys are being conducted, organizations audited. And slowly, candidate profiles for these cities are being shaped.

There are multiple scenarios and name predictions enumerated for the capital city. Let us take a look at who stands a better chance in which city, and which names outshine others.

Istanbul: Istanbul means Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In a scenario where the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) loses Istanbul, it will create a demoralization in the party, as much as putting a minus sign to Erdoğan’s 11 years of success. Therefore, Erdoğan is being meticulous while picking out the candidate. If the AKP complies with its three terms limit, which indicates that no party official can hold office for more than three terms, it is likely that a strong minister from the current cabinet will be shifted to govern the city. Kadir Topbaş, the current Mayor, stands a weak chance; he is expected to be made a deputy. Among the names discussed are Transport Minister Binali Yıldırım, EU Minister Egemen Bağış and a surprise name, Industry Minister Nihat Ergün. Bağış is being considered for Beyoğlu Municipality, an area still under the rule of the AKP. In this context, there are rumors that a change in the cabinet will occur in the fall, yet Erdoğan is rumored to make the change right before the election, towards the new year.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) is seeking to compete with a promising candidate. In a lot of surveys, the difference between the AKP’s Kadir Topbaş and the current Şişli Mayor, Mustafa Sarıgül is measured to have fallen to four points, despite the fact that Sarıgül has not become a CHP member yet. Sarıgül is close to becoming CHP’s candidate, but some in the nationalist wing of the CHP object to his membership. Another prominent name for CHP’s candidate for Istanbul is the deputy leader of the party, Gürsel Tekin. Other names for CHP candidacy include party spokesperson Haluk Koç, deputy group chair Muharrem İnce, journalist Can Ataklı, former Gaziantep Mayor Celal Doğan, yet they are given slight chances.

The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) is not expected to come up with a strong candidate for Istanbul. Even though party leader Devlet Bahçeli expressed that they are against coalitions, if the CHP comes up with the right candidate, it seems inevitable that the CHP will receive votes from the MHP electorate. The MHP is said to be considering Istanbul provincial chief Abdurrahman Başkan for candidacy.

For the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), Sırrı Süreyya Önder stands out after being in the ascendant in the Gezi Park resistance. The decision by Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) will be decisive too on Önder’s candidacy. This decision will be affected by the attitudes taken if the alliance between the AKP and the BDP on the solution of the Kurdish problem continues.

It is being estimated that if Önder, a sympathetic figure for the Left, is to become a candidate, it will harm the votes of the CHP.

Ankara: Melih Gökçek has been claiming the post of Ankara Mayor for the past four terms, with two of them under the roof of the AKP. In 2009 election, Gökçek entered the elections saying “I will run for the last time.” With his statements supporting Erdoğan during Gezi protests, he once again took the advantage in candidacy. Erdoğan might surprisingly nominate another. Deputy PM Ali Babacan, even though he said he is not interested, and Sports Minister Suat Kılıç are mentioned. It is also rumored that Kılıç can become AKP’s candidate for Samsun.

The CHP is having troubles in Ankara. Deputy leader Gökhan Günaydın, who became prominent with his latterly performance, may run for the office. Other names mentioned are Ankara deputies Emine Ülker Tarhan and Levent Gök and former Minister of State Mustafa Yılmaz.

In 2009 elections, the MHP have made a surprise with 27 percent. In this election, the MHP is considering party’s deputy leader Mevlüt Karakaya or theologian Mustafa Erdem for candidacy. In the meanwhile, the BDP is not ambitious for Ankara.

Izmir too is critical for the AKP. A strong name of the cabinet, Yıldırım who was elected from Izmir in general elections, is at the forefront. Izmir deputy Rıfat Sait, who is of Balkan origin, is also willing for the candidacy. Izmir provincial chief Ömer Cihat Akay is also being considered. Among the expectations is that Erdoğan might enter the race with a surprise name.

The CHP is accenting on the current Mayor Aziz Kocaoğlu for Izmir, a city known to be CHP’s “castle,” due to its historic landslide victories. Another assertive name is Konak Mayor Hakan Tartan. Izmir deputy Birgül Ayman Güler and former deputy Canan Arıtman have already declared their candidacies, yet are given slight chances.

The MHP is expected to proceed with provincial chief Necat Karataş, while the BDP is expected to compete with an unassertive candidate.

Big scramble for Antalya and Adana

Big scrambles are expected for Antalya and Adana. In Antalya, the AKP and the CHP, and in Adana, the AKP and the MHP are likely to compete.

For Antalya, former president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Mevlüt Çavuşaoğlu, deputy leader and former Mayor Menderes Türel are the names the AKP is considering. The CHP is in a dilemma between the current Mayor Mustafa Akaydın and Muratpaşa Mayor Süleyman Evcilmen.

In Adana, the AKP is accenting on the head of Health Commission Necdet Ünüvar and Eyüp Mayor İsmail Kavuncu. The MHP is likely to enter the race with Ceyhan Mayor Hüseyin Özlü.

Red lines to battle for Constitution

On August 21, Wednesday, Parliament’s Constitution Conciliation Commission will hold its most critical meeting, in which parties will battle over their red lines. The Commission will discuss the right and freedom to education and training, citizenship, the right to use one’s mother tongue, the first three irrevocable articles of the Constitution and the fourth one marking them irrevocable. If a crisis shows up, what will the CHP and the MHP, who have so far stayed at the table, do? I have asked this to prominent names from both parties and received the answer “We are at the table till the end.” CHP deputy Atilla Kart has gone even further and said “We are at the table till the end and the AKP should withdraw presidency, so we increase 59 agreed articles to over 90 in a trice...