The March 31 municipal elections in Turkey produced numerous surprises, as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) suffered losses in the country’s three largest cities: Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. On the other hand, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the powerful leader of the conservative Islamo-Turkish nationalist movement and himself a former mayor of Istanbul, emerged with a “victory”: 44 percent of the total vote. Its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), won 7 percent. Yet, Erdoğan’s losses extended well beyond Turkey’s three largest cities to include Antalya, Adana, Mersin and many others. The results in Istanbul are symbolic: the president’s rise to political power began there. He won the mayoral elections in 1994 with a plurality (barely more than 25 percent), promising to address critical urban infrastructure issues including water, traffic logistics and pollution.
However, one should be extra cautious about framing the consequences of the opposition’s solid showing. The turnout, which has been consistently higher than in other democratic countries, was 84 percent, as expected. Turkey’s hybrid democracy is not always well understood or accurately presented in much of the Western media. While the country’s democratically elected governments since 1950 have had to face meddling and restrictions from the Kemalist military-bureaucratic establishment, balloting and voter participation were always held sacrosanct. Key to this has been the centralized, computerized and independently monitored High Election Board (YSK). In many ways, it is quite superior to the decentralized American system, which often faces credible charges of voter suppression directed at minorities.
The election results suggest that Erdoğan’s long-term project of centralizing political power is more complicated than has been anticipated. His hold on political power remains solid. He has a constitutional mandate to rule Turkey until June 2023. He controls the parliament, along with the executive and judiciary branches, along with every media outlet in the country. Nevertheless, this is not the first time Erdoğan and his party have been vulnerable. In the national elections of 2015, he neutralized the risks of defeat by exploiting differences between and within the opposition parties. No one should hasten to proclaim the end of the Erdoğan era; he still maintains very strong levels of electability, compared to other political parties and leaders. The AKP remains the country’s most popular party, commanding some 45 percent of the national vote.
Forming political alliances is essential in Turkey’s constitutional government. For parties to be represented in the national assembly, they must meet the 10 percent popular-vote threshold. Thus, small parties have no option but to form alliances. For example, the Nation Alliance, the secular-led opposition, has included the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the İyi (Good) Party, the Islamic Saadet Party (SP) and the Democrat Party (DP). Regarding the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a left-wing entity established in 2012 and often criticized for its connections to the Kurdish minority in southeast Turkey, the opposition coalition party refused to cooperate with it, at least publicly, and instead opened a back-door channel. For Erdoğan to win the constitutional referendum in 2017, he allied himself with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Since the presidential system was instituted, these two parties together have held a comfortable majority, popularly known as the People’s Alliance, which has enabled them to enact legislation freely. The new presidential system, a product of the 2016 failed military coup, took hold with a referendum that abolished the prime minister’s post and enlarged the parliament from 550 to 600 seats. Other changes were made to the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors. The overall effect is that Erdoğan now has near-dictatorial powers as president without the rigorous checks and balances that are common in constitutional governments.
However, one also should not underestimate the breadth and depth of what happened in Turkey’s 81 provinces. Municipalities along the entire Aegean and Mediterranean coastline voted for the opposition party. Even in eastern and central Anatolia, typically a solid stronghold, the AKP lost some major cities. Despite the government’s investments and direct intervention to cultivate support, the Kurdish electorate in southeast Anatolia voted for the HDP. In some cities with Kurdish populations, the AKP managed to hold on with the votes of military personnel. These results do affect the nation’s political psyche. The always resilient and seemingly invincible Erdoğan has suffered one of the greatest political setbacks since he took power nearly two decades ago. The opposition party alliance now has the political upper hand in five of the country’s six most populous provinces. This means the networks of political patronage long enjoyed by the AKP are more difficult to access and leverage. Yet, one also should not discount Erdoğan’s political skills, as he looks toward extending his power in 2023 — the centenary of the founding of the Turkish republic — and beyond.
WHY ERDOĞAN LOST
At least four major factors shaped the election outcome: (1) the worsening economic situation, especially in the urban centers; (2) the marginalization of the Kurds in major cities; (3) the humanitarian crisis affecting refugees of the Syrian war; and (4) the weakening of the AKP machine and its transformation into Erdoğan’s “family-business.” The election made this clear. Erdoğan made the vote a referendum on his policies. That is, the CHP did not win but Erdoğan lost.
Although Erdoğan tried to distract voters from worsening economic problems and corruption issues by stressing existential threats to national security, economic concerns predominated in voters’ minds. In attempting to curb inflationary spikes in food prices, Erdoğan ordered government-subsidized vegetable stalls to be placed in city squares around the country. These attracted long queues, consolidating the image for many citizens that the country had long ignored its agricultural industry. Reuters reported that Turkey’s annual consumer-price inflation rate rose to 19.71 percent in the month just prior to the elections, despite the government’s efforts to make inexpensive produce available. Food prices in January were approximately 20 percent higher than they had been in the same period last year.
Responding to the country’s worsening economy, Erdoğan insisted that the conditions of ordinary Turks had improved greatly since the AKP’s rise to power in 2002. He suggested that Western countries, especially the United States, have compromised the country’s economic potential. He ignored the fact that his crony capitalism and economically inefficient, mega-sized infrastructure projects had severely weakened fair-market conditions. To wit, just three weeks before the vote, the Turkish Statistical Institute said that the country’s economy had shrunk by 2.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018. With a 1.6 percent decline in the previous quarter, economists now classified Turkey as being in a recession.
In 2018, the Turkish lira lost one-third of its value against the U.S. dollar. This, combined with rising unemployment, exceeding 30 percent among young people, and a trade war along with a diplomatic spat with the United States, weakened Erdoğan’s image as a capable leader. Due to Erdoğan’s religiously based inclinations against interest-rate policies, the Central Bank was slow to raise borrowing rates. In the interim, the government forced state banks to provide loan guarantees to its loyalists, and this weakened the banking sector. Moreover, political interventions have crippled the economic decision-making process, and Turkey has failed to implement structural reforms for improving its economy. In response to the weakening rule of law and growing crony capitalism, foreign investors are abandoning Turkish assets in greater numbers; the country desperately needs a booster shot of foreign investment. In a Twitter statement, İbrahim M. Turhan, former CEO of the Istanbul Stock Exchange, noted, “Despite the comparative firmness in the exchange rate and regression in the interest rates, initial data suggests it is possible that economic activity in 2019 Q1 would be worse than the previous quarter.” Ironically, it might be Erdoğan’s personal desire to survive politically, even if that hurts his chances for focused economic reforms the country will need to reverse the current recession.
Security Concerns and the Kurds
It was Erdoğan himself who turned the local elections into a referendum over his leadership. During the last two weeks of the campaign, he organized hundreds of rallies in nine cities, deploying all the means of the state to make himself heard and visible in every home in the country. Virtually every television outlet owned by his business partners and the state aired the rallies live. His presence on television and his divisive partisan polemics turned the public against him. In Istanbul, Süleyman Çelebi, an aide to CHP candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu who won the election, told Reuters that Turks had tired of “divisive and polarizing language” and had warmed to İmamoğlu’s style of face-to-face campaigning with a positive message.
Meanwhile, Erdoğan sought to capitalize upon the fear rhetoric by adopting nationalist language to contend that the country faces existential threats from foreign-backed enemies, especially the Kurds.2 The discourse surrounding existential danger (survivability, beka sorunu) played an important role in mobilizing nationalist grassroots supporters. That is, they preferred to vote for the MHP candidate, but they would cast their vote for the AKP only if there was no other option. It was with the discourse of the beka sorunu that Erdoğan not only turned the elections into a mandate of which party was best suited to protecting the nation’s security interests but also devalued them, reinforcing earlier campaigns where he has instrumentalized the use of Islam in his political messages. As the results indicate, Erdoğan’s survival messages did not connect. His previous campaigns had been orchestrated effectively by Erol Olçok, the campaign manager who also was the president’s close friend, but Olçok was killed during the failed coup three years ago. This time, the president apparently could not find the most effective slogan for his political message.
During the elections, Erdoğan displayed no respect for moral and ethical concerns, not hesitating to deploy every rhetorical weapon to poison the voters’ minds against the opposition. After the terrorist attack on Muslims who were praying at a Christchurch, New Zealand, mosque on March 15, he showed excerpts of the video taken by the terrorist’s helmet camera to attendees at his rallies. He proclaimed the West is “still seeking to capture Istanbul and subordinate the Muslims.” He added that, if the courts in New Zealand failed to penalize the killer, Turkey would act on its own to exact justice for the mass murders. Reuters reported last month that Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister — widely praised for her response and leadership following the attacks — instructed her foreign minister (Winston Peters) to travel to Turkey and ask Erdoğan to clarify his remarks. At one of the rallies, Reuters reported that an excerpt from the alleged manifesto of Brenton Tarrant, the Australian charged with the murders, was shown on a large screen along with video of the gunman entering the mosques and firing shots.
Just five days before the elections, Erdoğan pledged to return the Hagia Sophia to its status as a mosque. It was a Byzantine cathedral transformed into a mosque during the Ottoman Empire and then converted into a museum under Mustafa Kemal in 1934. This clearly was another desperate attempt by Erdoğan to capture voters with a message of fear. He may have been influenced by a snippet in Tarrant’s alleged manifesto in which he criticized Europeans as weak for allowing themselves to be “ethnically replaced.” In one line, Tarrant wrote in all caps: “Until the Hagia Sophia is free of the minarets, the men of Europe are men in name only.”
The Syrian Refugees
Speaking in Ankara on election day, Erdoğan said, “Turkey’s aim is to help Syrian refugees return to their motherland by making Manbij a safe place.” Last fall, at the annual opening of the UN General Assembly, he announced that Turkey would continue to establish safe zones east of the Euphrates and that many refugees would be returned to Syria.3
However, contrary to Erdoğan’s messages during the campaign, Reuters reported something different just two days before the election: “Despite political rhetoric to the contrary, and with the support of international donors, Turkey is quietly paving the way to integrate many of its nearly 4 million Syrians — by far the biggest group to have spilled over Syria’s borders during the eight-year war.” With the help of the European Union, services for Syrian refugees in Turkey have shifted from humanitarian-based to education, job training and other services to help them assimilate into society.
Nevertheless, the AKP’s rhetoric amplified fears about security. In Istanbul, Binali Yıldırım, the former prime minister who was the party’s candidate for mayor, warned that if Syrians “negatively impact normal life and order here, there will be repercussions. We cannot tolerate this, and we will send them back.” Furthermore, no independent sources have been able to corroborate the Turkish interior ministry’s claim that some 312,000 refugees have been returned to Syria. Meanwhile, some voters angered by the government’s contradictory claims and worried about their worsening economic picture cast their votes for the opposition, believing that Erdoğan was more interested in the welfare of the refugees than of their own pocketbooks.
Party Machine and Family Businesses
Erdoğan has surrounded himself with a select group of sycophants on the basis of their loyalty rather than meritocracy. He has become increasingly indifferent to grassroots expectations or interactions, preferring instead to work with small circles of business leaders and friendly investors. Moreover, since 2015, he has marginalized previous allies who helped establish the AKP and had guided its electoral victories.
The major winner of the Nation Alliance has been the nationalist MHP. Although it received 7.31 percent of the votes in those cities with separate candidates, its supporters in major cities voted for AKP candidates. The MHP emerged as the overall winner in the elections, with 33 percent of those provinces in which it ran candidates. It also captured seven provinces from the AKP. Moreover, voters upset with the AKP’s economic policies preferred to vote for the MHP rather than the opposition alliance. The net result is that the MHP is eroding the AKP at the grassroots level and weakening its ideological core.
Erdoğan’s deepest problems are associated with Ömer Çelik, former minister of culture and the current chief AKP spokesperson, and Berat Albayrak, his son-in-law, the finance minister. Albayrak is not only inexperienced but also vindictive, and he controls the party machine in major cities. The business community has no faith in his ability to run the nation’s economy, and many are worried about his personality, which has undermined their confidence. Çelik, who comes from a lower-middle-class background and has limited education in the liberal arts and no foreign language proficiency, is Erdoğan’s longest-serving advisor. His ego seems to overwhelm his ability to comprehend events inside and outside the country that affect government performance. Çelik has been effective in purging more capable advisers, who are better educated than he is. Now boxed in by his son-in-law and Çelik, Erdoğan is becoming more isolated; this will eventually undercut his political power and effectiveness.
During the elections, Erdoğan’s old allies stayed away, busy establishing a new party to stop the AKP’s turn toward authoritarianism. In a phone interview, a former Erdoğan ally mentioned, “We have to form a new party to contain Erdoğan. The party we created devolved into something we cannot recognize anymore. It has become an oppressive machine and the worst network of crony capitalism. The worst is that it really consumed our most cherished value: Islam.” Former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlutoglu and former deputy prime ministers Ali Babacan, Beşir Atatalay, Abdullah Gül and Cemil Çiçek have collaborated to launch a new opposition party. Thus, the struggle is no longer between Erdoğan and the secular opposition but among the members of the AKP leadership.
THE SUCCESS OF THE OPPOSITION
There are five reasons for the anti-Erdoğan coalition’s victory: (1) the learning curve of Kılıçdaroğlu and his decision to change his party; (2) the tactical unity against Erdoğan and the use of unifying and positive language; (3) the modern, socially conservative candidates; (4) the use of social media to highlight the country’s economic problems; and (5) the discipline of the coalition parties, especially the HDP, to be “present but be absent” in working together.
Kılıçdaroğlu and the CHP’s Transformation: Erdoğan’s polarizing and humiliating language forced the opposition parties to collaborate to weaken his grip on power. Opposition parties — notably, the CHP, the liberal-nationalist İyi Party, and the Kurdish nationalist HDP — developed a joint strategy to halt the expansion of Erdoğan’s power and overcome the fear-inspired political discourse. The strategy prevailed in part because of Turkey’s worsening economic situation and Erdoğan’s extreme tactics against any form of opposition.
The most important political development has been the CHP’s transformation from rigid Jacobin secularism to an Islam-friendly social democratic party.4 Under the leadership of Kılıçdaroğlu, CHP has shed its old ideological identity and reconciled Islam with secularism. Kilicdaoglu did not hesitate to nominate pious, social democrat candidates. His main goal has been to end “Islam-versus-secularism” polarization. By nominating Mehmet Bekaroğlu, a prominent religious politician who is critical of Jacobin secularism, as a member of parliament from Istanbul, he took a major step toward Turkey’s conservative sector.5 Neither İmamoğlu nor Mansur Yavaş , the mayor of Ankara, is a hard-core Kemalist. İmamoğlu recites the Quran but is comfortable with western and Islamic values. Yavaş has been active in the nationalist right wing. They both come from a conservative pious family background. Kilicdaoglu realized that “Islam-versus-secularism” polarization has not helped the CHP to focus on substantive issues, and he has worked hard to overcome this perception. This move has helped the CHP to reach the conservative, urban, Muslim-oriented middle and lower-middle classes.
To summarize, the CHP changed itself to defeat Erdoğan and marginalize his “Islam-versus-secular” framing by nominating pious, modern-oriented Muslim leaders; adopting a conciliatory attitude toward the presence of Islam in the public sphere, and building a coalition with the nationalist (İyi party) and religious-conservative (Saadet) parties to defeat Erdoğan’s authoritarian and neopatrimonial temptations.6
The Kurds, who traditionally have voted for Erdoğan’s de-Kemalization, became disenchanted with the arrest of HDP politicians and Erdoğan’s harsh language. They had no option but to work with the CHP-led coalition. Moreover, rising unemployment and high inflation galvanized lower- and middle-class voters in urban centers to express their discontent against Erdoğan’s self-absorbed focus on crony capitalism.
The Kurdish-nationalist HDP also pursued a new strategy in this election, adopting a low profile and not insisting on being a formal ally of the opposition coalition. It won almost all major Kurdish-dominated provinces, where its mayors had been booted from office by the central authority for their open support of PKK fighters. In the western part of the country, the HDP called on its supporters to vote for anti-Erdoğan candidates of the CHP-led coalition. Due to public anger against the HDP’s support for violence in southeast Anatolia, other parties avoided entering a formal alliance with the HDP. Thus, the HDP agreed to support the opposition Nation Alliance by not running candidates in the western part of Turkey: Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Adana and Mersin. The HDP vote was the most critical factor in the Nation Alliance’s victories in the major western urban centers.
However, the HDP suffered some significant losses in Ağrı, Şırnak, Bitlis and Tunceli. Both the CHP and İyi remained reluctant to thank the Kurdish nationalist HDP for its support. None of the elected mayors thanked the Kurdish voters, due to shared national-security concerns that the HDP had undermined itself by not maintaining a distance from the PKK. The HDP will need to distance itself from the PKK if it wants to become a legitimate player in Turkish politics. If it fails to do so, it risks becoming marginalized, relying on its anger, which has limited appeal potential across diverse ethnicities.
The Loss of Istanbul
The election process at the outset was not fair, as government resources were mobilized for the benefit of the AKP candidate. However, Ekrem İmamoğlu, a little-known local politician, won despite limited resources. With effective messaging that focused more on positivity than on a direct critique of the incumbent president, İmamoğlu gained the respect of many Turks across the political spectrum. No one expected İmamoğlu to win against Binali Yıldırım, the well-funded and powerful former prime minister and speaker of parliament. Yıldırım used all the resources of the state, and major construction companies friendly to Erdoğan’s interests supported him. The victory in Istanbul carries several messages. First, Erdoğan has always claimed that “Istanbul means Turkey and Turkey means Istanbul, and whoever wins Istanbul wins the entire country.” Given that Erdoğan’s political rise to power began in Istanbul, the 2019 results are as historically consequential as his victory in 1994. Erdoğan lost more ground than the CHP, which won Istanbul by default because its citizens did not vote for the CHP but against the AKP.
The major demoralizing result for the AKP was the loss of the crown jewels of Istanbul, Ankara and Antalya. Istanbul has 15 percent of Turkey’s 57 million voters and controls 32 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. It has the largest operating budget, after the national government.
The defeat in Istanbul is a major concern for Erdoğan. First, the spending rules are much more liberal than elsewhere, and its budget has been the main source of Erdoğan’s patronage.7 Through construction and other projects, the city has been the source of large amounts of rent from zoning, construction, urban renovation, garbage collection, transportation, and especially irrigation and sewage projects. This defeat means a huge rent loss for Erdoğan and his cronies. Through these municipalities Erdoğan has also controlled religious foundations and NGOs by diverting resources and supporting their local functions.
Who Is İmamoğlu?
Born in the Black Sea city of Trabzon, İmamoğlu studied business at Istanbul University before joining his family’s construction business. He entered local politics in 2009 and became mayor of the middle-class Beylikdüzü district in 2014. As mayor, he became a unifying leader across different ethnic and regional groups. He was transparent and moderate, running his district without any corruption charges. As the media have been tightly controlled by Erdoğan and his allies, İmamoğlu had little media exposure; whatever coverage he received was mostly negative. However, the Istanbul voters ignored the pro-government media campaign. This election showed the media’s limited power; it has discredited itself as a tool of Erdoğan and his allies. İmamoğlu effectively used social media platforms to share his ideas with the people and avoided a negative campaigning style. With a religious background, he has close ties with neo-Sufi groups, yet he considers himself a Kemalist. His first move after the election was to visit the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal to show his commitment to the Republic’s secular, modernist philosophy.
Although state agencies have rushed to deny İmamoğlu’s victory, instead highlighting Yıldırım, who went on television to declare his win before the official vote count, the populace typically has not supported attempts by the government to usurp legitimate political power by force. This particular incident proved shameful for Erdoğan and his party. However, İmamoğlu refused to acknowledge Yıldırım’s statement by conceding, and he has mobilized his supporters to protect the ballots.
İmamoğlu has adopted a statesman-like attitude, avoiding an ugly confrontation, and has called upon the government to respect the results. With his positive statements, he has won the hearts of Istanbul’s people. İmamoğlu said he would be the mayor representing the entire spectrum of the populace and would carry out his duties according to the law. Although the state election council has not yet certified the results, under pressure from Erdoğan, many Istanbul voters have already embraced İmamoğlu as their mayor. Erdoğan’s main fear is that İmamoğlu could challenge him in ٢٠٢٣.
İmamoğlu preferred face-to-face campaigning and small-group meetings, making sure that his interactions were made available on social media. Meanwhile, Yıldırım preferred the high-visibility media and campaigned sparsely, letting Erdoğan run the campaign with huge rallies, which sowed more irritation and division than unity. The results indicate how this strategy backfired. Before the campaign began, İmamoğlu reached out to all former mayors of Istanbul, including Erdoğan, to discuss the city’s problems. This move was welcomed by many AKP supporters as a positive step towards overcoming political polarization. One of the major reasons for fearing İmamoğlu is that he made it clear that if elected, he would audit the books and expose any possible corruption within the municipal government. An audit could lead to major corruption charges against Erdoğan and his family members.
The local election results do not threaten Erdoğan’s current term as president, which will last another four years. He will remain the “imperial president” under the current constitution. As Erdoğan has mastered division by pitting Kurds against Turks, pious against secular Muslims, rich against poor, and Anatolian against Rumeli Turks, no one knows what steps he might take to further compromise the state and sustain himself in power. After the election, Erdoğan indicated that his People’s Alliance still commands more than 50 percent of the vote (51.6 percent). In the 2018 parliamentary elections, he managed 53.7 percent. He has also said that there will be no elections for the next four and a half years, and that the country would do better to focus on its economic and social problems. He did not hesitate to threaten the opposition mayors, saying they will not have an easy time as elected officials.
This election exposed the deepening political crisis within the AKP, as Erdoğan continues to marginalize and alienate his colleagues and isolate himself. His assurance of bright economic prospects has failed, along with his claim to represent the oppressed and the Black Turks (a culturally and economically marginalized segment of the population). How quickly Erdoğan’s era collapses will depend on the Nation Alliance’s political skills. They need to find more positive shared ground than just being an “anti-Erdoğan camp.” They have to share a political language and vision of “normalization” and the “restoration” of Republican institutions. There is currently almost no agreement about the path to the country’s future. The CHP, the İyi, and the DP agree on the founding philosophy of the republic as an “indivisible nation-state, with unified sovereignty, and secular governance.” Meanwhile, the Kurdish nationalist party (HDP), a major player in the opposition bloc, wants the state to share “sovereignty” with the elected representatives of the Kurdish municipalities. Because of these deep philosophical differences within the opposition camp, Erdoğan could easily exploit disagreements. There is no credible alternative bloc to address the country’s structural problems and current recessionary woes.
More important, the election results have shown that Turkish democracy is resilient and that the public wants more inclusive political language. The West, especially the United States, should not engage those hawks who demonize Turkey and ignore its legitimate security concerns. The Turkish public has criticized American policies in the region — especially ignoring the genocidal campaign against the Palestinians and the destruction of Iraq, and in supporting an independent Kurdistan. Turkish society has the deep historical perspective to overcome the current national crisis and muddle its way through in recovery. U.S. policies, more than domestic factors, have been pushing Turkey towards Russia, and this carries another set of major geopolitical complications.
These election results also indicated that, although Erdoğan remains strong in the minds of many Turkish voters, he could be defeated through smart political strategy. Turkey is at a crossroads, the most significant transformation since the Republic was established in 1923. The Turks naturally reacted to national security concerns, yet they are more worried about the worsening economic situation, which is significant in Erdoğan’s mind: his personal and political survival in or his potential legacy.
As this commentary goes to press, Erdoğan has refused to accept the defeat of AKP candidate Yıldırım, claiming widespread voter fraud. Such claims are not credible; the AKP, not the CHP, was in charge of many of the large municipalities. Erdoğan now wants a “do over,” but the YSK (election board) has rejected his call and has only agreed to a recount in certain contested districts. The YSK is now once again at center stage, with its independence and integrity at stake. President Erdoğan initially promised he would accept defeat, “reflecting the will of the people,” even in Istanbul as in the other cities. The true litmus test of democratic consolidation is not winning genuine elections, as Erdoğan has done repeatedly in the past, but in being willing to give up power when you lose. Given Erdoğan’s majoritarian and often illiberal view of democracy, many within and outside the country had legitimate doubts about this. If the YSK, backed by the judiciary, maintains its institutional integrity and forces Erdoğan and the AKP to accept the popular will, Turkey and its democracy will be greatly strengthened. If not, the country will be headed towards even more troubled times. If Erdoğan had graciously accepted defeat in Istanbul, as many in the AKP wanted, he could have personally cemented his own legitimacy as well as that of Turkey’s democracy. His failure to do so will result in a popular backlash and even ruptures within his own party.
1 Erdoğan’s Achilles heel is Berat Albayrak, the son-in-law-turned finance minister, who is practically running the country with his crony capitalism, along with semi-clandestine mafia-like business networks dominated by the people of his hometown, Trabzon. Mehmet Metiner, Erdoğan loyalist, wrote a post-election critique, arguing that one of the reasons of this loss is that the “party turned into a family affair.” See Metiner, “Simdi Muhasebe Vaktidir,” Star Gazetesi, April 5, 2019, https://www.star.com.tr/yazar/simdi-muhasebe-vaktidir-yazi-1444408.
2 For the historic origins of the relations between the Turkish state and the Kurdish tribes, see Ahmet İlyas, Aga, Asiret, Siyaset (Kadim, 2016).
3 Mitigating Risks for Syrian Refugee Youth in Turkey’s Şanlıurfa, International Crisis Group, February 11, 2019, https://www.crisisgroup.org/europe-central-asia/western-europemediterra….
4 For more on secularism, see M. Hakan Yavuz, “Understanding Turkish Secularism in the 21th century: A Contextual Roadmap,” Southeast European and Black Sea Studies 19, no. 1 (2019): 55-79.
5 Mehmet Bekaroğlu, Siyasetin Sonu (Elips, 2007).
6 Nergis Demirkaya, duvar, “Seçimi ‘Kılıçdaroğlu doktrini’ kazandı,” April 5, 2019, https://www.gazeteduvar.com.tr/yazarlar/2019/04/05/secimi-Kılıçdaroğlu-….
7 For more on the budget and the AK Party exploitation of the Municipality of Istanbul, see “Büyükşehirleri kaybetmenin bedeli ne?” Cumhuriyet, April 6, 2019, http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/siyaset/133279/Buyuksehirleri_kaybet….