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EM reaction: Turkish opposition obtains landslide victory in local elections

  • 02 April 2024 (3 min read)

Turkish opposition party obtains the largest share of votes at local elections

Preliminary results from Sunday March 31 local elections show the Republican People’s Party (CHP) having received 37.8% of the vote nationwide, while the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) received 35.5%. This is the first time in AKP’s history that it fails to take the largest share of the votes.

60% of the population under CHP authorities

Opposition party CHP won 14 out of 30 major provinces, 35 out of 81 provinces, 356 out of 973 districts. AKP and its junior coalition partner the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) retained power in 32 provinces out of 81, down from 50 provinces back in 2019. Following local elections, more than 60% of the Turkish population live in areas under CHP local authorities against 25% for the ruling AKP. CHP won Ankara, Izmir and Istanbul with very high scores: M. Yavas obtained 60.4% of the votes in Ankara, almost twice as much as the AKP contender; with almost 49% of votes, M. Tugay obtained 12 points more than M Dag (AKP); CHP Istanbul mayor M. İmamoğlu retained power, casting 51% of the votes, that is 11 points more than M. Kurum from AKP, contradicting pre-election polls which were pointing to a very tight race.  

The rebalancing of the economy through a return to orthodox policies to continue

The landslide victory of the opposition makes results difficult to contest. President Erdoğan conceded defeat on Sunday night and appeared committed to let his economic team pursue with implementing its macroeconomic rebalancing program. As such, the expected tightening of the fiscal policy should help tame inflationary pressures in a more meaningful manner as of next year while curtailing the recent buoyant economic activity (see more here about the latest 500bp rate hike delivered by the Turkish central bank).

Lowest turnout since 2004 weakened the AKP voter base while

With 48 million vote casted to the ballots out of 61 million eligible voters, Turkish local elections show a 78.1% turnout down from 84.7% in 2019, which is the lowest participation level since the 2004 local elections, likely coming from AKP’s traditional support. With double-digit inflation rate since November 2019, having reached a peak at 85.5% in October 2022 and still hovering at more than 67% at present, Turkish population has been under significant pressure in spite of massive fiscal stimulus pushed by President Erdoğan.

AKP-ally-party New Welfare Party (YRP) led by M. Erbakan turned rival

The YRP decided to run on their own during these local elections and came in third with more than 6% of votes that brought two municipalities to the conservative party. This has in turn further dented AKP support in polls.

Thinking ahead about 2028 general elections

Four years from now, Turkey will go back to polls to elect its next President. According to the Constitution, President Erdoğan (70 years old) is not allowed to rerun and his recent comments seem to comfort this. 2028 will be thus about President Erdoğan’s succession after being in power for decades. While 4 years is a long time, recent local elections bring into the spotlight two politicians willing to be part of Turkey’s post- Erdoğan era, namely the popular mayor of Istanbul, M. İmamoğlu (CHP) and M. Erbakan (YRP), the ambitious leader of the New Welfare Party, a party that he created back in 2018 which appears to be increasingly appealing to AKP’s disappointed conservative religious voters. 

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