On 31st March, the local elections took place in Turkey, opening a window of opportunity for the Turkish Left.
Last year on 24th June, a general election resulted in a large victory for the Erdoğan regime. Following on from that, he gained great legitimacy for his now official dictatorial presidency system. We therefore witnessed a local election in the shadow of the new regime. Erdoğan used all the resources and powers of the state to manipulate both the choices made by voters and the actual results. However, now we have a clear picture of what has really changed in Turkey and how it is going to evolve. First of all, the leading party (AKP) lost most of the important metropolises. From Ankara to Istanbul and İzmir to Adana, the provinces with the majority of the population and economy are now controlled by the opposition parties. After 17 days and a lot of invalid objections about the security of elections, Erdoğan and AKP accepted the confirmed results of İstanbul elections.The reason behind the waiting and uncertainty surrounding the Istanbul result lies in the economic power of the city and Erdogan’s displeasure in losing it. There will be a huge loss of economic resources for the AKP when the results of the Istanbul elections are declared. However, Erdoğan can’t risk taking over the Istanbul municipality in an illegal or suspicious way. That kind of move would create a situation in which the whole regime would be perceived as illegitimate, backfiring him into both political and economic vagaries.
In the overall picture, we can see the effects of the economic crisis on the electoral results. In the large cities, people are faced with the horrible consequences of the crisis and have rightfully blamed the government for this. On the other hand, the opposition parties built a successful alliance for the elections, and the support of the Kurdish (mostly HDP supporter) voters was effective in the west provinces. Furthermore, over the last month, up until the elections, Erdoğan and the AKP used every possible method of oppression. And it seems to have backfired.
The results in the larger provinces show us that there has been a huge reaction and that there is potential against the Erdoğan regime, like during the Gezi resistance back in 2013. Mostly, people who live in the metropolises, younger generations of students and workers, and women of all ages, are against the regime. Therein lies greater potential than in the upcoming elections, which do not seem possible for at least five years. Also, the situation shows us the importance of an alternative political organisation rather than the mainstream parties. A socialist organisation that aims for solidarity in the days of economic crisis and builds a huge front against neo-fascism can create a more powerful and effective form of opposition. The overall enthusiasm of the people towards the election results now offers a positive sign for a new starting point.
Also, even the fact that the AKP have lost a huge amount of the large cities does not mean that Erdoğan’s power has been totally downgraded. He still holds a dangerous amount of power in the state, and his influence over voters remains. However, the economic loss which comes from the municipalities that the opposition won will create a weakness in his power. Also, this is the biggest election failure for him, and this is why he does not want to go into a possible general election. Now the Left has a good opportunity to use the potential that the results have demonstrated to build a new social opposition which can overcome despotism and the economic crisis.