Recent election results in the Republic of Turkey have signaled political upheaval for the country’s old-guard political class.
Already in the beginning of this week, as the day of the ballot approached, polls were predicting a major setback for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Islamist leaning Justice and Development Party, abbreviated officially as AK Parti in Turkish.
By Monday, local elections in the capital of Ankara ended in a loss for AKP, with the opposition People’s Republican Party (CHP) winning more than 50 percent of votes. AKP trailed at around 47 percent, according to the state-run news agency. Shortly after, the final tally for Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city and financial center, was also in. CHP again emerged victorious with a slim margin of just above 50 percent.
The news was a bombshell. This is the first time in 25 years that Erdoğan’s party has lost its grip on the capital. For political analysts, there are two points worth highlighting. First is the resilience of the CHP, a party many believed to be on life-support. Second is the discontent with AKP that has finally coalesced into dominant political force. A combination of generational change in the party itself and the serious economic crisis in the country yielded these surprising results. What’s worse, many observers have pointed to high-handed government intervention and micro- management of the market as exacerbating, if not directly causing, the economic situation.
By 3 April, AKP was already contesting the election results claiming “huge differences” between the numbers of casted ballots and votes submitted to the national election committee.
To end with an optimistic forecast, the more liberal (and secular) influence of CHP in Turkish politics could prove beneficial not only for the people of Turkey, but also internationally as well. A less Islamist-inclined political milieu may prove to be much less provocative in the region, and perhaps even weaken relationships with anti-Western actors like Iran and Russia. The world could very well be witnessing the beginning of a paradigm shift in the rulership of the Turkish Republic.