Turkey Local Elections 31 March 2019

Local elections in Turkey today across the country.
1. Ankara and Istanbul could fall to opposition according to many, though not all opinion polls.
2. Bursa, Antalya, Adana, Balıkesir, Denzili, Şanliurfa seem to be the other cities with the highest chance of a shift to the opposition
3. State media extremely hostile to opposition as is most ‘private’ (mostly owned by government cronies sometimes due to rigged auctions and purchases by consortia formed for political reasons.
4. Hostility means constant claims that the opposition is pro-terrorist, anti-Muslim, treasonous, working with religious community associated with 2016 coup attempt, and criminal.
5. So, any opposition victory is in the face of a public sphere and state apparatus dominated by pro-Erdoganist bias of an aggressively intolerant kind, so is double the achievement it appears to be
6. Bad and worsening economic/living standards situation should at least persuade some previous pro-govt voters to stay at home or defect
7. Pro-Erdoğan ‘Republican’ (hard religious and national right) alliance versus opposition (centre left and centre right) ‘National’ alliance the main contest, but leftist-Kurdish autonomy HDP important in the southeast. Also religious conservative SP could be important in attracting defectors from Erdoğan, not in very large numbers but enough to make a difference.
BUT
1. Never be sure about polls
2. Good reason to suspect that large scale vote rigging is likely
3. Good reason to believe that Ankara was vote was rigged, if by a small margin in 2014 and the situation has got worse since then, particularly in the 2017 referendum to create a hyper-presidential/elective sultan republic.
4. AKP apparatus doing everything to minimise economic problems and blame them on foreign conspiracy
5. Government has removed elected administrations and replaced them with state ‘administrators’ (AKP cronies) in many opposition municipalities, particularly in the (Kurdish majority) southeast
6. Looks like government-state-AKP (there is very little difference between them) may try to prosecute main opposition candidate in Ankara and disqualify him on the basis of nonsense claims of criminality circulated just in time for the election
7. Particularly strong suspicions that Erdoğan regards the loss of Istanbul as unacceptable and would authorise more than the marginal manipulation of the vote which has become normal
8. HDP treated as a barely legal party and subject to extreme and systematic harassment
9. So the question of the moment is now, not just how votes are cast, but how far the AKP apparatus will go in manipulating the vote, and then how far it will go in replacing elected mayors with government appointments.
10. Personally I regard any opposition loss by a margin of up to 2% as definitely the result of rigging and fear that rigging could be worse than that.

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