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How the Turkish local elections just reinstated the status quo

By Admin

Added 3rd April 2019 03:49 PM

To have a more opulent picture for easy comprehension, on the same day Ukraine conducted its Presidential vote and its turn out stood at 65%.

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Hakiimu Kawalya

To have a more opulent picture for easy comprehension, on the same day Ukraine conducted its Presidential vote and its turn out stood at 65%.

By Hakiimu Kawalya

On Sunday 31st March 2019, the Turkish nation headed to polls to elect Division and District chairpersons. Despite being the sixth consecutive national election in a span of five years, the turnout was all-telling at a staggering 89,19% mark of the total registered voters (roughly 57 million).

To have a more opulent picture for easy comprehension, on the same day Ukraine conducted its Presidential vote and its turn out stood at 65%. And the other day I read somewhere that the recent USA mid-term elections in 2018 recorded a historically high turnout of 50.3%. I guess I ought to leave the rest for another day, I now beg to move on to analyze the rather interesting results of the Turkish local election. 

Although President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) which allied with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) under the People’s Alliance won approximately 55% of the country’s cities, it lost seven of previously held districts to main opposition Republican party (CHP), a member of the Nation Alliance. Lost territory includes the megacity of Istanbul (pending confirmation), the capital Ankara and Antalya the famous tourist destination.

Many analysts have read these developments to allude to the strongman emerging as a weakened and limping and no doubt an immediate meander through the media headlines evinces this notion. Whereas bits of this analysis may hold, one or two important points are being omitted. First and foremost, Erdogan has won some districts (for example; Sirnak and Bitlis) and greatly increased his party vote share from others in the predominately Kurdish region of the Country.

This is coming at a time when he is fighting Kurdish separatists in and beyond the country’s borders. Hence, evident support from Turkey’s Kurdish voters is indeed a sign of approval to his Syria and Iraq policies especially in proving to the world that even his Kurdish citizen comprehend that Turkey target only the separatists and not all Kurdish people.

The other and perhaps most important side of the coin is the fact that Turkey changed her Constitution in April 2017 from a Parliamentary to a Presidential system. In the new system, single political parties which used to take Districts and even the Prime Ministry with a simple majority (usually between 30 to 45% of the vote count) now have to form alliances to earn the 50% +1 benchmark of the Presidential system.

If the old rules were to apply, no doubt each individual party would front a candidate in the seven lost districts and the AKP would emerge victorious, for even in this election it has the highest single party votes in each of the lost districts.

The formation of alliances only seemed to have helped Erdogan during the Presidential election when he garnered a total of 51.5% from the entire country last year. Note that this figure stands at about 52% in this election, indicating a surge in popularity contrary to the general impression.

The million Turkish Lira question, however, is how come this time around, the AKP chairman who is often praised as an experienced politician may not have foreseen the handicap of a bipolar presidential system from the deep lenses of a municipality struggle? Or could it be that actually he did, but chose to prioritize the gains in the office of the Presidency!

In any case, one thing seems certain: While the 31st March election outcome rubberstamps and hoards the status-quo, the noise from the superficial losses may output a worrying image if no preprocessing is applied. That notwithstanding, this election will go down in history as one in which almost all the participants seem to have pocketed a thing or two and truly in that lies the beauty of democracy. The people of Turkey have spoken and I congratulate them. 

The Writer is a Ugandan PhD scholar at Middle East Technical University in Ankara, a panellist with Africa Research and Policy centre, a Pan-Africanist and an expert on Turkey-Africa relations.
 

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