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Turkey’s Electoral Earthquake: The Fall of Giants and the Rise of New Forces

I like the phrase, “Turkey has made its choice!” This time, it didn’t happen like that. We witnessed an election where balances were completely overturned.

Almost all polling companies were reporting that the CHP candidates would win Istanbul and Ankara. Normally, no matter who they were up against, Ekrem İmamoğlu and Mansur Yavaş would win hands down if the election were held ten times. The election results made an even bigger surprise. For the first time in its history, AKP became the second party. The economic crisis, which did not reflect in the polls surprisingly in 2023, showed its effects in March 2024.

It is significant that Balıkesir elected a social democrat candidate after 74 years, and Üsküdar chose a CHP female candidate after 30 years. Beyoğlu and Eyüpsultan switching to CHP is equally meaningful. “If I am elected, the doors of the municipality will be open to everyone except for DEM Party members,” said the candidate from Afyon, who was deemed “unlikely to be elected.” The data from 2023 indicated so, with CHP’s vote at 18%, and two-thirds of the people voting for the People’s Alliance and Erdoğan. Burcu Köksal was elected with 50% of the votes.

Before the election, I wrote that I would pay attention to two pieces of data: what the undecided voters, expressed as around 20%, would do, and what the voter turnout would be. Undecided voters leaned towards the candidate who had a high chance against the government, those angry at the government but unwilling to vote for CHP either did not vote or cast a blank vote, the same thing.

There was a vote shift from DEM Party and İYİ Party to CHP. Istanbul candidate Meral Danış Beştaş confirmed this by saying, “İmamoğlu should not say these votes are mine, our voters gave their votes there because they wanted to punish AKP.”

Even though there was a shift from MHP to AKP, the AKP voters slapped their party in the face. The decrease in the participation rate from 87% in the 2023 elections to 75% is one reason for this.

Istanbul is solely the victory of Ekrem İmamoğlu. Despite Erdoğan, the state, 17 ministers, and the judiciary, he won for the third time and this time, he confirmed his name as the next presidential candidate with the difference he made. CHP’s victory also served as a vote of confidence for Chairman Özgür Özel, and Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, waiting on the sidelines, can now retire and close his office.

DEM Party, becoming the “third party” in terms of the number of municipalities won, saw its nationwide votes melt away. It lost Kars but gained Tunceli. It seems to have maintained its other municipalities. After the results are finalized, there will be more discussion about DEM Party. Alliances, vote shifts, statements, reasons for the melting away in the Western provinces, etc.

Yeniden Refah Party (YRP), which increased its vote to above 6%, became the third party on the podium by inflating its sails (in terms of vote percentage), especially due to AKP’s indifference to the Gaza/Palestine drama. YRP has become a party that the AKP electorate can vote for with conviction. The conservative base of AKP now has a contender with a claim.

Looking at the provincial general council votes (this is the answer to the question of which party you would vote for if an election were held today), you can see some provinces changing from red to yellow. That is, while CHP won the mayoralty in Kütahya, Afyon, Burdur, Sivas, Giresun, Ardahan, Sinop, Kastamonu, and Adıyaman, AKP became the first party in the provincial general council votes. Add the votes of MHP, even YRP to this, and a different balance emerges.

Erdoğan could not reverse the election despite all the state’s resources and all the black propaganda. Theft and voter fraud only go so far (it seems to have been decisive in Şırnak and Bitlis.)

AKP could not prevent the explosion of anger at the ballot box. It could not persuade the voters it had alienated. It does not seem possible from now on. Erdoğan will struggle to halt the decline, but he won’t be able to straighten up because he can’t return to law due to his major crimes.

-Will he soften or harden?

My answer is negative. But now his job is much harder; he has received a hard slap from the voters.

The opposition must also not think “His job is done!” Rational moves must be made to solidify the victory and avoid mistakes.

The election has revived hope and has been beneficial for the country. It’s a victory for CHP, with YRP being the second winner. There are many losers. Erdoğan’s statement, “March 31 is not really an end for us but a turning point,” has become historical, confirming the “end.” His statement, “I have 4-4.5 years ahead of me,” shows that he will resist until the end. Facing you is a king without its queen and pawns, and the end of the game is just a few moves away.

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