Why did the AK Party Lose Municipal Elections? Causes and Consequences


The results of the recount of the election votes of the Grand Istanbul Municipality is not expected to change the reality because of the 27 thousand votes in favor of the opposition candidate. Despite the victory of the Justice and Development Party AK Party in more than half of the country’s major and minor municipalities in Turkey, AK Party won in 16 large municipalities out of 30 including two large municipalities in the Southeast with Kurdish majority like the municipalities of Sharnaq and Agri, and 41 out of 81 states. AK Party won in 56% of municipalities throughout Turkey, but the results were not satisfactory to President Erdogan and his party. Many of AK Party advocates and focal figures got alerted to make up for the consequences of what happened at the psychological level of the party that has been making continuous and steady progress, especially in the municipal elections, which is the source of the party’s strength and its way to the parliament, and then to reach the hearts of the people by providing the greatest possible services.

The alarm of real danger

Despite the party’s attempt to minimize the loss of the Greater Ankara Municipality and perhaps Istanbul, as expected, and the claim that the party won most of the sub-municipalities in the two large provinces, it is enough that Republican People’s Party gained nearly the same electoral votes of Justice and Development Party. A number of former leaders of the Justice and Development Party AKP, led by Abdullah Gul and Dawoud Oglu expressed their willingness to establish their new party while waiting for the results of the elections before going ahead with their project. This is a harbinger of a real danger to Erdogan and his party and a concern and obsession for the leadership of the Erdogan Party. This requires them to seriously search for reasons that led to what happened and learn the lesson and work hard to address the situation as much as possible before the aggravation of the dilemmas. They intend to benefit from the advantage of four years with no major electoral competition during the four years to come. This break provides an opportunity to address issues that may require radical changes.

The causes of defeat and its consequences

The ten sins:

Experts and researchers following up on the Turkish affairs are almost unanimous that a number of factors constitute the main reasons for the disturbing results of the ruling party. It can be summarized as follows:

First, the Turkish lira has sharply fallen during the last few months.

This has affected the life of the ordinary Turkish citizens who have begun to feel the impact of rising prices and the cost of living in the light of a clear decline in growth and a decline in GNP from $ 850 billion in 2017 to $ 715 billion in 2018. Turkey dropped two degrees on the scale of World top twenty states, and may get out of the club by the end of this year at a time when Erdogan has been promising to enter the top ten club. Finding no radical solutions to major economic problems including increase of public debt, and the failure to compensate for the falling exchange rate of the Turkish Lira by increasing exports is the real concern.

Second: Turkey’s transition from a social market economy to a liberal economy

The social market economy in which the middle class benefited mainly from an increase in AK Party shares in the first ten years of the party’s rule, and to make the Turkish street see Erdogan as the leader of an economic renaissance to reach a liberal economy and perhaps a wild liberal one in recent years. This was clearly noticed in the discontent of different classes of society which used to be close to the party like people working in education sector and the police.

Third: The failure of the Justice and Development Party to attract the main electoral bulk.

Justice and Development Party failed in attracting a large proportion of young people between eighteen and twenty-third year old, an electoral active mass that did not know how Turkey had been like before Justice and Development Party came to power. This social slice has got no idea of the misery and corruption that Turkey suffered under unstable coalition governments. Affected by social media more than other age groups, younger generations have started to give signs of the desire for change and the experience of other parties.

Fourth, the decrease of religiosity among young people

We should not forget that the decreasing level of religiosity with this social class which has significantly declined in recent years according to informal questionnaires despite the Turkish government’s efforts to revitalize Imam Khatib’s schools and make them an inspiration for younger generation. The AK Party has neglected this age group and has not been good at dealing with a moody generation which judge things in a hurry and that its requirements differ from other age groups.

Fifth: Justice and Development Party has lost the sympathy of retired.

In recent years, there has been a surprising disregard of the retirees although this age group is capable of mobilizing decisive electoral votes. Although it has tried to do so, AK Party has again neglected retirees despite their apparent influence in the parliamentary elections on the 7th of June 2015. This contributed to the decrease of votes for Justice and Development Party by not less than 2% as a result of the insistence of the Minister of Finance to satisfy them by increasing the public debt. In spite of the efforts to make up for the situation at the time of the election on the 3rd of November 2015, so the situation deteriorated during past year.

Sixth: New important alliances against Erdogan and his party

The coalition system in the local elections and the unification of opposition entities in favor of one candidate in the municipal elections in an unprecedented step remarkably helped the opposition candidate. The CHP coalition with the Good Party, defector of the National Movement with the Happiness Party representing the students of Erbakan with other small parties have all joined an implicit alliance with the Kurdish Peoples’ Party, a Kurdish extremist party. Despite its devastating defeat by getting only 4.5%, and its votes with the Islamist-inspired, Happiness Party was among the most important factors leading to the advance of the opposition candidate in Istanbul and Ankara. At the same time AK Party candidate didn’t benefit from the party’s alliance with the Nationalist Movement Party, as it is certain that a significant proportion of its members may not have voted for Ben Ali Yildirim.

Seventh: Erdogan and his party ignored Anadolu fanaticism in Ankara

The Erdogan Justice and Development Party AKP nominated the former Minister of Environment and the former mayor of Kayseri to compete in the province of Ankara. Neither of the two is known for the public in Ankara as they are not from Ankara. Being a minister or a mayor didn’t work with the remarkable Anadolu fanaticism in Ankara.

It was far better to nominate a candidate who successfully served the sub-municipalities in Ankara to meet opposition candidate Mansour Yafash, who narrowly lost the former municipal elections in favor of the ruling party’s candidate. The question to be asked here is:

Is dealing with some nominations as if they are parliamentary elections is the right thing to do?

Municipal elections are directly related to publicity of the nominee and services he has provided.

Eighth: Erdogan’s mistake

The return of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the electoral battle has always Brought a good omen for the AK Party, but this time, his intervention in the electoral battle for major municipalities and his rude and direct attack on the opposition candidate in Istanbul, Akram Emam Oğlu was counterproductive. It gave him special sympathy by people who believed that the presidium of the High Presidency should not fall to the level of attacking a candidate applying for the municipality. It is important to know that the loss of Istanbul is the first for the Erdogan Party for 25 years.

Ninth: People’s worries and feelings were the deadly mistake of Ben Ali Yildirim

In his campaign, Ben Ali Yildirim focused on the development of Istanbul’s infrastructure based on his experience and history in this field because of the business mentality still dominated the mentality of Erdogan’s men. Muharram Imam Oglu focused on education, social assistance, economic recession and the needs of the people. His focus on key issues reflected in the election boxes, especially for those hesitant voters who constitute about 10 per cent of the voters.

Thinking that he would win the votes of secularists, Ben Ali Yildirim insulted one of the religious persons who stated that a person who neglects prayers is just like an animal. He didn’t win secularists and lost some of the votes of religious voters. Ben Yildirim’s talk about the evacuation of Syrians from Istanbul was not a successful remark although he didn’t lose much of the votes of Syrians with Turkish nationality.

While the opposition candidate appeared as a religious person who often reads the Quran, and he addressed the passion of the Turkish people, this is the first time the secular opposition nominates a figure belonging to the religious family of Imam Emoglu. He is well-known to people of Istanbul as he was a successful head of Billik Duzu Municipality.

Tenth: Erdogan family interventions in the party decision

The behavior of President Erdogan’s brother-in-law and the Minister of Finance, Bara al-Bayraq and his attempt to appear as the next leader in Turkey and his uncle’s successor has negatively affected the popularity of AK Party. He intervened in every issue related to the party despite the lack of charisma of President Erdogan.

Erdogan insistence that the former Minister of Interior should not be nominated for Ankara elections and choice of his friend, the Minister of Environment had a negative impact, so many people realized the outcome of the elections before they started voting.

AK Party is losing its vitality.

The exhausted administrative body of AK Party has remarkably sagged as it failed to introduce a new generation of leaders who could replace the older generation of Abdullah Gul, Ahmed Dawodoglu, Mohamed Shishmik, Ali Babajan and Bulent Arring who have been criticizing the policies of the party and its president during recent years. Moreover, many see that the party’s ruling style and the speech of its populist president has deprived the party from its historic momentum and has also made a relatively big gap between the party’s leadership and its bases. This default should have been remedied since the results of the presidential elections. This is the subjective aspect of the party.

As for the objective factors, the strained relations with the Americans and the recent cold relationship with the Russia, and the belief that holding stick from the middle leads to better results while the Russian-American rivalry on Turkey reached its utmost range. The issue of sticking to the NATO or heading eastwards, and allying with the Russians and the Chinese, has not been resolved and will not be resolved. It causes confusion. The Russian S 400 missile versus US F 15 fighters, for example, caused a crisis, and Turkey’s recent attitude towards the Venezuela crisis is one more example.

Political Significance

Despite the fact that the party has maintained almost its previous percentage in the municipal elections and remained the largest party alone, the loss of Istanbul and Ankara is still not easy. It clearly shows the retributive votes in the form of a double message says: We want you in our municipalities because you are the best who provide services while we will vote for your opponents In the Grand Municipality to tell you that we are not satisfied with your performance. This is a clear message to President Erdogan and his party.

The difficult equation in Ankara

The question that undoubtedly needs to be asked:

How to deal with the opponent mayor of the grand municipality under the control of the Justice and Development on 24 municipalities of the total 39 in Istanbul and how to control 22 municipalities out of the 25 municipalities in Ankara and an absolute majority in the municipal council. Will the mayors of sub-municipalities be instructed by Justice and Development Party to fail the mayor?

This will give the opposition the chance to accuse the AK Party of obstructing the work of the municipality and if this happens, their reputation will be at risk, or they will cooperate with him with the possibility that the mayor might exploit every achievement for his interest and the interests of his party. This constitutes a danger to the future of the AK Party. It is a really difficult equation.

The AK Party should seriously take into consideration the issue of an implicit alliance between the CPP Party and the Party of Good and Happiness with the Kurdish People’s Party. This might affect Turkey’s political future. If the regime in Turkey remained a parliamentarian and did not become a presidential, the Justice Party would no longer be able to monopolize the government. Everyone knows that if such an alliance was activated in the parliamentary elections on June 7, 2015, things would have gone in a different direction and the AK Party would not remain in power.

Anyway, we need to spot the benefits made by these elections including reinforcement of the idea of democracy in Turkey and the maturity of the democratic practice, strength of institutions, its vitality and neutrality which is a great thing in a country that is relied on for the future of the Arab and Islamic world. It has been clear that citizens in the Arab world have shown much interest in Turkish municipality elections compared to disregard of the Arab League Summit which was held on the same day of the elections in Turkey. Sometimes misfortunes become blessings. This setback of the AK Party might persuade it to inject new blood in the party. It might lead to communal administration of the country by both the ruling party and the opposition. This can fulfil the dream of the opposition to reach power and lead to positive results that serve civil peace and the preserve the unity of the country as presidential advisor professor Yassine Aktay said.


The result of these elections will not lead to any call for early parliamentary or presidential elections, but it will pose major challenges to President Erdogan, who wakes up and sleeps on the electoral battles although he is one of the most brilliant politicians in the modern age. The new situation requires him to work quickly to develop a new policy for the party to ensure that he remains in the forefront, and the continuity of the rise of this blooming country to enter the Club of the World top ten and maybe permanent membership in the Security Council.


Has history written that a party remained in power for ten years and maintained its superiority, development and contributions?

How has the AK Party been the leader of Turkey’s political life for twenty years?

Logically speaking, it has gone bankrupt in offering new and creative contributions. The public has begun to turn around, especially after the international problems, which reflected negatively on Turkish welfare and made the Turkish lira fall against the US Dollar. This has prompted many Turks to ask themselves:

How long will we continue to support Erdogan and his party?

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