Turkey holds local election amid economic recession and voter fatigue

On 31 March, Turks will pick their representatives in 81 provinces. The victory of Erdogan's party is expected amid growing voter weariness. Meanwhile, the economy is tanking: falling GDP and double-digit inflation. The opposition seeks to take Ankara.


Istanbul (AsiaNews) – Turkey is going to the polls on 31 March to elect local governments in the midst of its first recession in ten years.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) are expected to win but they are facing a more united opposition and a wearier electorate, which might result in a lower turnout.

Still, this will give the president to boost his stranglehold over the country, following last year’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

Local elections will see the AKP boost its alliance with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which emerged for the first time in last year’s elections giving Erdogan the power to continue the hunt for opponents after the failed 2016 coup.

Turkey is divided into 81 provinces, 30 of which are metropolitan areas. The most important are the political capital Ankara, the economic and commercial capital of Istanbul and Izmir. Depending on the area, voters will be asked to choose mayor and municipal councillors as well as district leaders and councillors.

The elections come at a difficult time for the ruling party, which triumphed in the past thanks to (unkept) promises of rapid economic growth. In fact, the trend has been negative since late 2018, with the country plunged in a recession, whilst inflation is running at double digits.

Overall, GDP growth came in at 2.6 per cent for 2018, far from the 7.4 per cent of 2017. Per capita income fell to ,632 in 2018 from over ,000 in 2017 whilst private household consumption dropped 8.9 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Experts, including Menderes Cinar, professor of political science and international relations at Baskent University, warn that the "bad state of the economy" would not necessarily mean huge losses for the AKP to the benefit of the opposition, whose voters also show signs of fatigue.

The most likely scenario is a low turnout, partly because of a lack of serious alternatives despite the opposition running together.

The opposition is in fact unlikely to take Istanbul from the AKP with its high-profile candidate, former prime minister Binali Yildirim. The is probably best placed to do well in Ankara with Mansur Yavas as its candidate.

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