The Turkish writer Cengiz Candar in an article posted in Al-Monitor site of US said that the results of the local Turkish elections held on March 31 are stunning, not only for those pessimists who expected nothing interesting out of the vote, but even for the optimists who thought the elections would serve as a lesson for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The writer added, "It was Erdogan who transformed the municipal elections into a referendum of sorts, one that would renew and enhance his executive presidency, by employing a frenzied election campaign. And he lost this referendum."
It is true that his party is still, mathematically, the leading force in Turkey, garnering 44.3% of the vote with an 83% voter turnout. It is also true that the sum of the total votes of the nationalist alliance Erdogan forged with his ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), led by Devlet Bahceli, stands at 51.6%, a figure similar to that which gave him the victory in the first round of the presidential election in June 2018.
Yet Erdogan is the loser of the local elections when viewed as a referendum on the president himself. This is because these elections were - more than anything else - of symbolic importance on whether he could retain his party's control of Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey’s commercial hub and capital, respectively.
The writer noted that losing Istanbul and Ankara could send a signal that it is the beginning of the end for Erdogan’s power, notwithstanding how long it may continue. A popular Turkish saying goes, “You rise from where you fall,” and this is apt for what happened March 31.
He added that losing Ankara, the capital of political power in Turkey, would be traumatic enough for Erdogan. Yet his was a likely outcome given the opinion polls revealed before the elections. However, the consensus was that Erodgan would do everything in his power not to let Istanbul “fall,” a prospect that seemed unlikely.
The writer said that the engines of Turkish economic life and social change are no longer under Erdogan’s control. All of those urban centers that generated money and economic power, which Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) greatly relied upon, have passed to the hands of the opposition.
The only seemingly important loss in the region is the town of Sirnak. This HDP stronghold was lost to the AKP, which secured an amazing 60% of votes. However, some facts cannot be ignored: 70% of Sirnak was devastated in the events of 2015-2016, and the 40% of its population who left the town have not come back. The town has been transformed into a garrison, with 16,000 police and military personnel registered as voters.
The writer said, " Erdogan has to grapple with the economic and financial crisis Turkey is facing.
According to a source who is close to Erdogan, he has two options in the aftermath of the elections. The source said everything will be about the economy from now on."
Erdogan has to bring back the International Monetary Fund and implement the fund's reform program. If he does so, he could repair the damage and save the country from the crisis. But that comes with a price, as it means he certainly will lose the elections in 2023. Or, the source said, he will sell as many assets as he can to preserve the status quo of his power, and that will lead to economic collapse after a year or so.
The writer concluded " election results could also propel Erdogan to be more repressive, particularly against the Kurds, and steer Turkey toward a disaster. Turkey, after these milestone local elections, will be a place that deserves to be followed and observed. As it used to be said, there is never a dull moment in Turkey - and it seems there never will be."