The mood of the election was cross-country more than local. The dominant literature of the candidates was the macro national literature rather than addressing urban and local issues.
President Erdogan called the election and its results a matter of Turkish survival and tried to give it a security aspect. Meanwhile, rivals manoeuvred on economic and livelihood issues more than anything else by understanding Turkey’s economic conditions and declining indicators. Indeed, Erdoğan’s political rivals hit him from where that was the main drive in the continued victory of the Turkish president during his years in power.
Contrary to some headlines in the Iranian media, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) was not defeated in the recent election but received a warning. Looking at the statistics and general results of the elections, the Justice and Development Party and the Nationalist Movement Party (Coalition of the Republic) won against the Nationalist Coalition (comprising the People’s Republic Party and the Free Cause Party). Of course, this victory was not so sweet and with the loss of the municipalities of Ankara and Istanbul, it was a warning to the Justice and Development Party that, if not taken seriously, it could strongly harm the party’s long-standing totalitarian power.
In fact, it was a warning that had been given to Erdogan in the presidential election through the opposition of nearly 50% of the residents of these two metropolises to Erdogan’s presidency. It can be said that this warning was one of the reasons for nominating Ben Ali Yildirim, the Speaker of Parliament and the second in command of the AKP to become the mayor of Istanbul.
Although Erdogan entered the election race with full power, especially through the presence in Istanbul, his goals were not accomplished despite all these efforts, and the Turkish president had to give up these two cities to his rivals. Acknowledging the election results by Erdogan alone was a test of democracy in Turkey and a lesson for others. In considering the causes of Erdogan’s defeat in Istanbul and Ankara, in addition to political, economic, security causes, and escalation of bi-polarism, there are other causes to consider.
Since its founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Turkey has been at the forefront of moving away from the Islamic values and turning to the West and its norms. Since the coming to power of the AKP, the pace of this trend has slowed down, to the extent that Erdoğan has publicly spoken of the need to revive Islamic values and reconcile Turkey with its recent past.
Although this process has been a source of satisfaction for the conservative rural platform, small towns and immigrant populations, on the other hand, it aroused concern among the Western circles and, more importantly, the powerful Turkish secular factions, parties and the social base. Under the AKP, while İzmir and Antalya remained an inviolable secular fortress, Istanbul and Ankara had been under the power of the conservatives of the AKP for two decades.
In the local elections, Istanbul and Ankara were the focus of the most serious competition between the two conservative traditional and secular factions and the two major economic and political castles were eventually won by the secular wing.
The Gezi Park protests, which were an environment-related pretext, were more of a civil and political protest of secular factions against the conservative faction. From a perspective, it can be said that Gezi Park’s process ultimately led to outcomes that took Istanbul and Ankara away from the Justice and Development Party after many years.
In the meantime, it should be emphasized that the Kurdish vote was very crucial in the victory of Akram Imoghlu, a candidate for the Municipality of Istanbul from the People’s Republic Party. Indeed, if Erdoğan wanted to bring the Kurds under control by repressing and imprisoning them and by dismissing the mayors of the People’s Democratic Party, the Kurds took revenge of Erdogan and punished him in Istanbul local election. It should be noted that Erdogan or the political system in Turkey in a counterattack rejected the victory of some of the candidates of the People’s Democratic Party in Kurdish cities and regions, and declared the second one in the lists who were mostly from the AKP as winners.
The excuse for this was an administrative conviction that, logically, it should have been announced before the election, or if this argument was correct, it should have led to renewing the election in these areas. It is interesting to note that the elimination of these electoral winners was faced by the silence of the People’s Republic Party and the Free Cause Party, which shows that the Turkish society, irrespective of secular bipolarism, has deep division ethnically and the Turks and the Kurds are in a state of confrontation.
To sum it up, Erdogan did not fail in the polls but received a warning. Those who warned Erdogan were not just domestic voters but external factors, especially Americans. In the past year, the United States managed to reduce Turkey’s currency value by 40 percentages. Erdogan will be regulated in conjunction with the foreign policy before being adjusted behaviorally inside. If there is no special development, this change, in view of Erdogan’s pragmatic personality and his lack of succession from the domestic and foreign perspectives, can extend his authority until 2023, when Turkey is to be the tenth largest economy in the world.