Espreso. Global

Erdogan's party loses elections for first time in 22 years. Why?

2 April, 2024 Tuesday

In short: Atatürk advances, the Sultan retreats

Erdogan's political force, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), was defeated in local elections by the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) for the first time since 2002. The AKP retained control of Istanbul and Ankara and won 15 mayoralty positions in other key cities. The CHP won the elections for the first time in 47 years.

This result reflects the trend of recent elections.

The AKP was losing support in the local elections, despite all of Erdogan's steps to build a dictatorship. In 2014, the AKP gained 43%, the CHP - 26%, in 2019 the gap narrowed to 12% - 42% to 30%. Yesterday, the CHP gained 37%, Erdogan's party - 36%.

Why did the opposition increase its numbers? A year ago, on May 23, Erdogan won the second round of the presidential election 52 to 47. But then he defeated the unpopular old leader of the Republican People's Party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu (75 years old). But after losing the presidential election, he resigned as leader. Back in November 2023, the CHP elected Özel Özgür (49), the leader of the parliamentary opposition, as its new leader.

In addition, the mayoral election in Istanbul was again won by the man who was supposed to be Erdogan's rival a year ago, Ekrem Imamoglu. But in 2022, a political prosecution was initiated against him, which resulted in his being sentenced to 2 years in prison. He was also banned from politics, and therefore did not run for office. That's why Kilicdaroglu was nominated. But Imamoglu succeeded in his appeal, and in 2023 he was acquitted.

Thanks to his victory in Istanbul, Imamoglu is once again the main contender for the opposition's candidacy in the 2028 presidential election.

The fundamental reasons for the loss of popularity of Erdogan's party are the economic crisis and fatigue from 20 years of rule, which are exacerbated by Turkish demographics. In general, Erdogan managed to build an electoral autocracy similar to early Putin: he closed or seized the media, forced oppositionists out of the country, and minimized the political role of the army (especially after the failed or even self-inspired "military coup" of 2016). He relied on Islamic conservatives, and later on the Euroscepticism of a large part of society.

But both last year's elections and the elections now prove that something is going "wrong." Erdogan failed to level democratic institutions, although he tried very hard. Why?

  1. Turkey is a young country (the average age is 30 years, while in Ukraine and Russia it is over 40). Young people are the basis of economic development, urbanization, and westernization. And although the share of religious conservative youth in Turkey is significant, the vast majority is still secular.
  2. Man-made economic crisis. Erdogan's intervention in the economy after 2018 and pressure on the central bank provoked a record surge in inflation (60+%), devaluation of the lira, and impoverishment of a large part of Turks. This irritates and undermines the authority of the government. And no, Erdogan is not the father of the "Turkish economic miracle." It is Turgut Özal, who died in 1993. It was he who carried out key reforms and established the necessary institutions.
  3. Integration with the West. It is difficult to explain to millions of Turks who are part of the global economy that Erdogan's attempts to be the leader of the Islamic and Turkic world and to curtail secular institutions are better than Westernization.
  4. Ethnic and religious diversity. The AKP has always lost elections in Kurdish regions. In addition, in recent years, the party has been steadily losing the support of Alevis (a branch of Islam, approximately 20% of the population), who do not fit into Erdoganism's idea of correct Sunni Islam.

No, this failure in the local elections does not mean that the Erdogan regime or its ideology is doomed to defeat in the 2028 parliamentary and presidential elections. Because his ideas are still popular (the gap is minimal), his control over the media (which is much more important in national elections) has not gone away, and he still has the administrative capacity to persecute the opposition. But autocracy in Turkey is very vulnerable, and this is a good signal.


About the author. Yuriy Bohdanov, publicist, specialist in strategic communications in business, public administration and politics

The editors do not always share the opinions expressed by the authors of the blogs.

Read also:
  • News
2024, Tuesday
23 April
Disinformation threat from Russia, China, Iran exists in European Parliament elections - Metsola
Insights from 59th brigade officer on situation in Krasnohorivka - Netaylove sector
Russia attacks Dnipropetrovsk region with missiles, injuring 4 civilians
Where Russia will attack in near future: Ukrainian colonel suggests
Ukraine's defensive efforts amidst new Russian threats – NYT
Beijing doesn't believe in Russia's victory over Ukraine
Russia intensifies construction of fortifications in Crimea due to approval of US aid to Ukraine
Lithuania hands over new batch of M577 armored vehicles to Ukraine
British missiles to boost Ukraine's arsenal: what are they?
Russian army drops bomb on Kostyantynivka in morning, injuring 5 people 
Largest military aid, Russian assets, peace summit: Zelenskyy speaks with British Prime Minister Sunak
Following US decision to aid Ukraine, Europe feels like it's their war - former MP Hopko
Poland is unable to provide Ukraine with Patriot, but will help with other weapons – Tusk
Ukraine may receive first US package of weapons in April — Ambassador Markarova
Russia uses new tactics of drone attacks on Ukrainian cities
Lavrov is waving the nuclear baton again. Vitaliy Portnykov's column
"Three Ural trucks with heavily wounded taken to Novoazovsk": Mariupol official shares details of explosion
Switzerland freezes over $14 billion of Russian assets
U.S. should present strategy for Ukraine's victory over Russia. Column by Serhiy Zgurets
Ukrainian Armed Forces launch first stage of Crimea de-occupation operation – military expert Sniehyrov
Children injured in Odesa due to Russian drone attack, man wounded in Mykolaiv region
German government urges US to provide Ukraine with another Patriot system - Bloomberg
Russia loses air defense systems, 29 artillery systems and 800 soldiers — Ukraine's General Staff 
$350 million is needed to restore Ukrainian power plants - DTEK director Sakharuk
Russian troops are actively advancing from Avdiivka to Pokrovsk - Druzhkivka council deputy Dovbnya
Boats, armored vehicles, air defense, missiles, ammunition: Britain announces largest ever military aid package to Ukraine
2024, Monday
22 April
Victorious news of 789th day of war: Denmark to send F-16 to Ukraine in summer, Ukrainian forces destroy over 600 drones
Ukrainian forces repel 53 Russian attacks over day, most in Lyman sector
Borrell tells when Ukraine may receive first shells under Czech initiative
Zelenskyy explains why he doesn't believe in 'Olympic truce'
AI as deputinization tool
Pensioners outnumber taxpayers in Ukraine
Israeli air defense isn't panacea, Ukraine has more effective example
AI, target tracker, microcomputer: Ukrainian FPV drones with computer vision
Russia strikes TV tower in Kharkiv, disrupting signal
Russian air defense units are fined for failure to repel Ukraine's air attacks
No Russian army in Chasiv Yar - Khortytsia grouping of troops
Next meeting in 'Ramstein format' to be held on April 26
American voters are not interested in living among Russian narratives
Russian puppet leaders are being evacuated from occupied Kherson region
More news