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Turkiye: The opposition coalition has gone with the wind of local elections

February 7, 2024 at 9:03 pm

People’s Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party) spokesperson, Aysegul Dogan speaks during a press conference on 4 February 2024 [Bilal Seckin/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images]

The Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party, known by the acronym, DEM, announced that it will be running in the local elections in Istanbul with its candidates, without allying with any other party. This turned the calculations of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate and the Mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, upside down.

CHP was in an electoral alliance known as the Nation Alliance, or Table of Six, along with the Peoples’ Democratic Party, which changed its name first to the Party of the Greens and the Left Future, and then to the Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party. Thanks to this alliance, its candidate in the recent presidential elections received 51.78 per cent of the voters’ votes in Istanbul. Its candidate also won the mayorship of the ancient city in the previous local elections, five years ago.

Imamoglu was counting on the votes of the opposition coalition, in general, and the Good Party and DEM, in particular, to win another term on 31 March, when local elections will be held. Of course, the withdrawal of the Good Party and DEM from the coalition ruined his calculations, because it means losing between 15 and 20 per cent of the votes and running in the democratic race without obtaining the support of any party other than CHP, to which he belongs and which he seeks to assume its presidency.

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The opposition coalition parties will run in the local elections in Istanbul with their candidates, if they do not back down at the last minute, but this does not necessarily mean that the current Mayor of Istanbul will not receive any votes from the supporters of those parties. He will certainly do his utmost to obtain the votes of those who fear the victory of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidate, Murat Kurum, given that the competition will essentially be between İmamoglu and Kurum. Only the ballot box results will show how successful he was in this mission.

DEM, which is loyal to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), allied with CHP in the previous local elections, and also supported its candidate, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, in the last presidential elections, although he was not part of the Table of Six alliance. Its extension (DEM) is expected to support CHP candidate in these elections in some cities, such as the city of Mersin, where AKP supports the Nationalist Movement Party candidate. This raises the question: Why doesn’t DEM support Imamoglu in Istanbul?

Negotiations between CHP and DEM went on for long but, ultimately, failed because of the latter’s requests in exchange for its support for Imamoglu. According to media leaks, DEM asked the Mayor of Istanbul to make their alliance public, and for CHP Party to support its candidates in some districts of Istanbul, such as Esenyurt, in addition to promising to appoint people loyal to the party to high-ranking positions in the Istanbul municipality.

The failure of the negotiations indicates that Imamoglu rejected these conditions, and that he wanted to obtain the support of DEM in exchange for secret promises and not publicly announcing the alliance between them out of fear that the announcement would lead to the loss of the votes of nationalist Turks and voters from the Black Sea regions.

DEM’s popularity declined in the last parliamentary elections from 11.7 per cent to 8.8 per cent due to its alliance with CHP in the presidential elections. This decline raised questions among the party’s leaders and supporters regarding the reasons behind it, and some believed that allying with CHP in all elections and supporting its candidates without obtaining significant gains would cause the Kurdish nationalist party to lose its identity and make it a follower of the CHP. This is the same reason that prompted the Good Party, headed by Meral Aksener, to break its alliance with CHP

In response to criticism that the Good Party’s failure to ally with CHP would serve the interests of AKP in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir, Aksener said that they did not establish the Good Party to support CHP. With a similar answer, DEM leader, Sirri Sakik, responded to those criticising this party’s decision, saying that Imamoglu’s possible loss in the local elections is not their problem.

The failure of the negotiations between CHP and DEM disappointed CHP leaders and supporters but there was a similar development that occurred a few days ago that put a smile on their faces, that is, the failure of negotiations between the AKP and the New Welfare Party headed by Fatih Erbakan, and the latter’s announcement that he would run in the local elections with his candidates and will not support AKP candidates, even in Ankara and Istanbul. This decision is certainly in the interest of CHP Party in the cities that are expected to witness fierce competition, as expressed by a CHP leader when she expressed her joy at the decision of the New Welfare Party, saying that they will win in the city of Bursa, thanks to this decision.

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This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 7 February, 2024.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.