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HomeHeadlineMarch 31 Elections: CHP's Landmark Victory and the End of an Era...

March 31 Elections: CHP’s Landmark Victory and the End of an Era for AKP

Necip F. Bahadir

March 31 marked the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. AKP lost, CHP won. Neither the magnitude of the loss was normal nor the joy of victory. For the first time, CHP made a revolution at the ballot box. It left behind the AKP, which had never tasted defeat until now.

March 31 will go down in history both for its winners and its losers. Every election result is interpreted by measuring the ruling parties.

Erdoğan faced the heaviest defeat of his political career. This was not a simple warning, a tug on the ear, or a yellow card from the voters; it was a direct red card. It didn’t just tug on the ear; it tore it off! The people threw AKP out of the game. The AKP ship, which turned into a Titanic, hit an iceberg. Its sinking was inevitable.

The ship suffered a fatal wound, and it is impossible to refloat or keep it afloat with various maneuvers. Ten months ago, what Generation Z could not achieve was accomplished by the ‘old guard,’ the ‘generation of retirees.’

March 31 confirmed Demirel’s saying, “Empty pots overthrew the government.” When the nationalist conservative masses of Anatolia, who said ‘We will eat onions and bread but won’t feed the Chief,’ lost even onions and bread, they devoured the ‘Chief’ without blinking an eye.

The philosopher who said, “If the world burns, it will be the poor who light the fire” was right. The poor razed the AKP government to the ground. The Palace lost all its luster and turned into ruins.

Mobilized all the resources of the state, but to no avail I am writing these lines right after the results started to be announced. Not even half of the ballot boxes have been counted yet. But the trend was clear from the first moments. For the first time since 2002, AKP threw in the towel this early. Even in previous elections where it lost, it competed until the last moment. AKP candidates could not even compete against CHP.

The electoral base of March 31 was Istanbul. Everyone’s eyes were on this city. Istanbul on one side, Turkey on the other. Erdoğan spent the last week touring the districts of Istanbul. Seeing the 2019 lost election as a ‘road accident,’ Erdoğan wanted Istanbul, which he called ‘my love, my beloved.’

He deployed his ministers to the field. Mobilized all resources. Recklessly used the opportunities of the state. The race was not ‘equal and fair’ anywhere in Turkey, not just in Istanbul. Especially, İmamoğlu fought alone against ‘the seven climes.’

Erdoğan was burning with desire to reunite with his ‘beloved’ Istanbul, which he lost to foreign hands five years ago. When he won the presidential election ten months ago, during his victory speech, he said, “No stopping until we win Istanbul!” and called on party members, signaling the start of the election campaign.

The loser of March 31 is Erdoğan! As he looked at Istanbul from the Çamlıca Hill, he felt like Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror: ‘Either I will conquer Istanbul, or Istanbul will conquer me.’ Although Murat Kurum appeared to be the competitor on paper, Erdoğan put himself forward.

Indeed, in all elections, Erdoğan is AKP’s biggest trump card. He not only failed to conquer Istanbul but also lost Turkey. He did not become a ‘Conqueror’ who captured Istanbul; instead, Istanbul captured him.

March 31 was a vote of confidence for Erdoğan’s administration. Traveling city by city, regardless of his ‘Presidency’ hat, he put himself to the vote. As if the mayor of Turkey was going to be elected on March 31. And he lost the vote of confidence.

Such a significant loss of votes in such a short time cannot be explained by political theorists or commentators… The loser of March 31 is not Murat Kurum or Turgut Altınok but directly Erdoğan.

‘Let’s keep Erdoğan out of this; it’s a local election’—no one accepted this approach. Perhaps the ship could have been kept afloat if the AKP strategy had been based on this from the beginning. Erdoğan was buried under the game he set up.

‘Managing victory, managing success’ is easy, but staying on your feet after ‘historical defeat and heavy loss’ is difficult. Erdoğan is experiencing defeat for the first time. It’s unlikely that Erdoğan, intoxicated by victory, can manage this defeat.

Will AKP experience what ANAP went through? Those closely following politics can see the resemblance of March 31 to the 1989 elections. The ANAP government led by Turgut Özal dropped its votes to ‘21.75%’ in local elections. Oltan Sungurlu, ANAP’s Deputy Chairman responsible for elections, famously said, “A roller has passed over us.”

Yes, 1989 was a local election that faced a defeat. But after that election, ANAP never recovered. Özal, who was severely wounded by the ballot box, ascended to Çankaya Köşkü despite all objections. But neither his ascent was healthy nor could he sit comfortably there.

Erdoğan’s political journey, which started in Istanbul in 1994, ended in the same city. Erdoğan’s political farewell could have been as romantic as the setting sun. But fate did not grant him that chance. He made his political finale with March 31, and the people sent him off not with roses but with bullets.

For Erdoğan, what comes next are ‘extra time minutes.’ If he cannot correctly read the message of March 31, he may exit the game under much heavier conditions. The match cannot be turned around from here. From tomorrow, like any politician, he might try to revise AKP’s sharp policies to salvage the situation or extend his political life. However, this is not a viable path. Ahead is a wall and a cliff… No exit in sight.

Time for Devlet Bahçeli and Meral Akşener to go home Along with Erdoğan, MHP Leader Bahçeli also faced a similar rout. His party’s votes fell below the threshold. He lost a stronghold city like Manisa. Meral Akşener, who tried to open a third path, is another loser of March 31. It’s time for Bahçeli and Akşener to go home…

Of course, there are winners of March 31 as well… CHP made a revolution at the ballot box. In addition to Istanbul, it toppled AKP’s strongholds one by one. Yeniden Refah also registered itself as the sole party of National Vision on March 31.

March 31 also determined Erdoğan’s successor; Ekrem İmamoğlu… He defeated Erdoğan not once, not twice, but three times. Ten months ago, had he been a presidential candidate, March 31 showed that he could have taken over the mantle earlier.

On March 31, CHP stirred up a storm at the ballot box, casting aside the king on one side and the throne on the other…

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