Turkish Ruling Party suffers major setback in local elections, faces challenges ahead


Published: 2024-04-10 14:14

Last Updated: 2024-06-18 17:21

Editor: Mohammad-Abu-Shmaleh

Turkish Ruling Party suffers major setback in local elections, faces challenges ahead
Turkish Ruling Party suffers major setback in local elections, faces challenges ahead

After enjoying two decades of unbroken political dominance in Turkey's municipal elections, the ruling Justice and Development Party faced a significant setback in the recent local elections, with the opposition Republican People's Party making historic gains nationwide, marking a pivotal moment in Turkish politics.

The defeat of the ruling party signals a shift in public sentiment, following a trend observed in the 2023 legislative elections, which saw a decline in the Justice and Development Party's support, particularly in major cities like Istanbul. Of particular concern for the ruling party was the reelection of Ekrem Imamoglu, a prominent opposition figure, as mayor of Istanbul, bolstering his prospects as a formidable presidential candidate in the future. Imamoglu's victory echoes President Erdogan's own trajectory to power, having risen from the mayorship of Istanbul to the presidency.

The local elections saw a notable phenomenon of punitive voting, driven by discontent over economic hardships, high inflation rates, and the government's handling of international issues such as the war in Gaza. This outcome poses a significant challenge for the Justice and Development Party, as the Republican People's Party now has an opportunity to showcase its governance capabilities over the next five years, potentially strengthening its position in future national elections.

Another development is the resurgence of the Welfare Party, led by Fatih Erbakan, son of former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, which secured third place in the local elections with over 6% of the vote. This resurgence poses a strategic challenge for the ruling party, as Erbakan's party aims to attract conservative voters disillusioned with the ruling party's policies.

Turkish political analyst Muhammad Ali Erdogan believes that the next five years will be crucial for both the Republican People's Party and the Welfare Party to demonstrate their effectiveness in local governance and win over the Turkish electorate. However, Erdogan emphasizes that President Erdogan still holds cards to play, including potential economic reforms and constitutional changes.

This recent defeat marks a significant setback for Islamicst-centered politics in Turkey. The AK Party has dominated Turkish politics for nearly two decades. However, this electoral defeat underscores growing discontent among voters with Erdogan's leadership and his party's policies.

The loss paves the way for potential challenges to Erdogan's rule and a reconfiguration of Turkey's political landscape - as support for Islamist politics dwindles down and opposition parties gain ground and secular voices become more prominent.

In response to the electoral setback, the Justice and Development Party is expected to undergo internal restructuring and leadership changes, alongside a reassessment of its policies and rhetoric to reconnect with the electorate. According to Turkish affairs researcher Taha Odeh Oglu, Erdogan's actions in the coming period, particularly on the economic front, will determine the party's future prospects. Failure to revive the economy could spell the beginning of the end for the ruling party.