Why Erdoğan's party lost local elections and who could succeed him

Wednesday, 3 April 2024

The Turkish ruling party has suffered its biggest defeat in local elections in all of its 22 years of existence.

Read more in the article by Yevheniia Haber, Senior researcher of the Atlantic Council – Türkiye chooses opposition: why Erdoğan's party lost and what does it change.

Local elections in Türkiye on 31 March were indeed decisive.

The opposition, the Republican People's Party, has come out on top nationwide for the first time in many years with 37.8% compared to 35.5% for President Erdoğan Justice and Development Party.

The opposition will control 35 administrative centers out of 81, including Ankara, Istanbul, and the country's largest cities, while ruling party candidates only won in 24.

It's also significant that for the first time, the Turkish opposition ceased to be a "coastal belt party." In addition to these traditional strongholds, the opposition also won several provinces in Central Anatolia.

The unexpected outcome of these elections was the unexpectedly high result of the New Welfare Party of Fatih Erbakan, which ranked third nationally. This is the recent reincarnation of his father's Islamist Welfare Party, former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan.

In 1998, Erbakan Sr. was banned from political activity for attempting to violate the secular regime, and when the ban expired, he was part of the formation of Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has stated that lessons from these elections will be learned, and such a result will not be the end for the party but will certainly be a turning point – a time to take a break, look back, and understand why this became possible.

The opposition's current success is primarily explained by economic issues.

This voting was also largely a delayed response to the consequences of the earthquake that occurred on 6 February last year in many regions of eastern Türkiye. The recovery is not progressing as quickly as promised.

People also demand change, and new faces both in power and in the opposition.

By the way, the opposition used its mistakes after the presidential elections, changing the leadership of the Republican People's Party.

As for the external course of the election winner, the Republican People's Party, Kemalists traditionally seek to strengthen dialogue with the United States and the European Union. This party generally condemns Russian aggression and supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

But they shouldn't be idealised. There is a strong left-wing in Ataturk's party that advocates maintaining ties with Russia and the current policy of balance.

And let's not forget that no matter how sensational these results may be, these are only local elections. Instead, the next presidential and parliamentary elections are set to be held in 2028.

So Erdoğan has enough time to analyse and correct his mistakes. And he has a real chance to adjust his policy, regaining voter support.

The overall trend for the ruling party though is not comforting.

Despite Erdoğan's statement that he does not intend to run for a new term in 2028, Türkiye is now discussing not just new amendments to the constitution, but even writing a new one.

So this could be a basis for allowing Erdoğan to run for president again in 2028.

But if that doesn't happen, Selçuk Bayraktar is most often mentioned as Erdoğan's successor, the founder of the company Baykar Machine, well known in Ukraine for its Bayraktar drones.

The potential "successor" to Erdoğan has an absolutely pro-Ukrainian position.

If you notice an error, select the required text and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editors.