Erdogan and AKP preserve power in local elections

Erdogan and AKP preserve power in local elections

Turkey’s recent mayoral polls were an unofficial referendum on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).The vote results proved that Erdogan has survived the onslaught of challenges to his premiership over the past year and Turkey is politically stable for the time being.

The vote that took place on 30 March 2014 was the first mass vote held in Turkey since June 2013. Following last year’s clashes in Taksim Square, which quickly turned into mass protests across the country, Erdogan was accused of a string of scandals and corruption charges. He has been criticized of enhancing the powers within his post and of establishing an authoritarian regime in Ankara.

As a result, the Prime Minister has lost many of his influential supporters, notably those who follow the teachings of preacher Muhammed Fethullah Gülen, also known as the Gülenists. Anxious about losing his grip on power, Erdogan has responded to this internal threat by purging thousands of known Gülenists within the police and judiciary, adding to claims that the Premier is gradually reversing democratisation in Turkey.

A series of leaked audio recordings anonymously uploaded to YouTube have also shaken the Prime Minister’s iron stance. In one, the apparent voice of Erdogan can be heard instructing his son to hide large sums of money before police raids for an internal investigation began.

An even more recent recording seems to present a conversation between Erdogan and the Foreign Minister in which they discuss secret plans for military intervention in the Syrian crisis. The Prime Minister has fervently denied that the recordings are legitimate.

However, the ban of social networking platforms such as Twitter and YouTube leading up to the local election is a telling sign of the threat felt by Erdogan. The controversial ban also serves as another representation of Erdogan’s gradual reversion of democratic rights in Turkey, such as freedom of speech.

Despite the Turkish public’s evident loss of confidence in the ruling party, the outcome vote certainly did not reflect this apprehension. AKP won the local election by 47 percent of the vote, successfully improving the 38.8 percent share they won in the last local election held in 2009.

The AKP’s success in local elections has reaffirmed Erdogan’s popularity with the public, but has also renewed speculation he will soon announce plans to run for president. Others believe he will keep his current post–which wields a great deal of autonomy–by amending the constitution to allow for a fourth term.

March’s poll shows that Erdogan still has might in Turkey; the public credit he receives for the last decade’s economic boom prevails over recent corruption scandals.

The Turkish economy faces challenges such as mounting foreign debt and last December’s currency crash, which saw the Lira drop by 12 percent in comparison to the US Dollar and hit a record low for Turkey.

However, despite such financial hiccups, the 2014 local election assures foreign investors of the continuity of the current status quo in Turkish politics.

About Author

Elizabeth Matsangou

Elizabeth works as International Account Manager for an environmental technologies company and has previously worked for a political consultancy company in Westminster and for Intelligence Squared, a forum for live debates. She received a BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Essex and an MSc in International Relations from the London School of Economics.