The AKP has, as predicted, won the local elections in Turkey. It’s a pity there is no research into why the voters chose to vote AKP. It would reveal the corrupt side of the Turkish political system.
The AKP has had a lot of support from conservative Muslims in Anatolian cities and villages since the party was founded around the turn of the century. At the time, that was where an Islamic middle class started to rise, which made Anatolian cities like Kayseri and Konya economically bloom. They never felt politically represented in strictly secular Turkey and enthusiastically supported the AKP, a party that, with their combination of conservatism and economic liberalism, appealed to both their religion and entrepreneurship. These supporters lead the AKP to national power in 2002 and to local power at the last local elections in 2004.
A smart move
Just before the local elections in 2004, a process started that is very common in Turkish local politics: mayors of different political backgrounds tried to become the AKP candidate for their town or city. A smart move: whoever is supported by the national ruling party gets money from Ankara more easily. The locals know it too, so they happily vote for the AKP too, even if they don’t like the AKP that much. With bureaucratic and financial support from Ankara, quite a few regional and local projects came to fruition. Local AKP voters also profited: whoever supported the AKP candidate openly (or less openly by secretly lining the purse of the local candidate) could expect more work for his company.
At the elections last Sunday, nothing was different. Last week I was talking to some businessmen in a district of Istanbul. They joked about an AKP brochure, on which the AKP mayor and candidate for re-election was beaming and smiling: “He is not even an AKP supporter, but how else are you going to get anything done in this country?” And the businessmen themselves, who were they going to vote for?, For this AKP candidate, of course. Because they are AKP supporters? No, because they are businessmen.
Equitably and objectively
The AKP likes to emphasise its democratic character, and yes, they do represent a big group of Turks who were politically invisible before. But if the party really takes democracy seriously, it has to slowly start working to its own detriment. Meaning it needs to distribute national budgets equitably and objectively over all cities and villages, whether they are AKP or not.
Like Izmir, again in the hands of opposition party CHP. Izmir is the most modern city of the country and so fiercely anti AKP that they can’t be bought. Like southern Adana, in the hands of the same mayor for twenty years now, a mayor who is so popular that it doesn’t matter for which party he runs, and who ran and won for the MHP this time. And like many cities in the southeast that are governed by the pro-Kurdish DTP and where there have been complaints for years that they cannot get any money from Ankara (after which the local AKP candidates at election times declare that the DTP can’t get anything done). It would not do the local representation of the AKP any good, but it would be a blessing for democracy.