An April, Again in Ankara

This is Anatolia. This is the land that welcomes different cultures, and is the birthplace of almost all religions.

This is the land of powerful empires: of Hittites a land of thousands of gods, it is the land of Troy of the epic war, it is the land that fueled the invincible Romans, and it is the land of magnificent Ottomans. It is the land that unites continents. Anatolia is a multi — layered civilization that possesses every essential element for its inhabitants’ prosperity. Having inherited all that abundance, the inhabitants are everything but mediocre; with their unique ups and downs they live on the edge. If you don’t live in this part of the world, this pendulum moving between love and hate, joy and grief, overdoing and understating is quite difficult to figure out. Lives are totally unpredictable in this part of the world, but hope is the only thing you cannot lose here.

In the early twentieth century, when the Anatolian people went through one of the darkest periods of their history with their lands occupied by allied powers, they rose up against their ill fate in a month of April during the war of Turkish Independence war and buoyed their hopes by founding the Grand National Assembly in Ankara under the brilliant strategy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founding father of modern Turkey. In the first quarter of the 21st century, the people of these lands needed to spread hope again; not because the country has threads of survival, but because of serious economic problems, sharp social polarization, lack of freedom, etc. before local elections. And, once again we are in April, and the results of the polls spread hope for change emanating from Ankara over to the rest of the country again.


Election turnout was nearly 85 %, though; Turkey experienced its seventh election on March 31 in the last five years, and Turkish people are too tired because of ups and downs and the psychological breakdowns due to vicious circle of expectations and disappointments. Once again, the unofficial preliminary results prove that nothing in these lands is impossible. You will find numerous analyses filled with numbers, percentages, statistics, etc., so let us focus in the results on more far — reaching indicators.

Results, indicators, unspoken words

For the first time in a quarter of a century, President Erdoğan and his party lost two major metropolitans, Ankara and Istanbul, and this is the first and most important outcome of the elections. Although, according to statements by Head of the Supreme Election Council, Istanbul’s National Alliance — backed CHP candidate has sufficient votes to win the elections, AKP has filed objections for numerous ballot boxes; thus, Istanbul’s results are still unclear. The situation in Ankara is more apparent, with Mansur Yavaş (Nation’s Alliance’s CHP candidate) winning 50.09 percent against 47.06 percent by his rival Mehmet Özhaseki (People’s Alliance’s AKP candidate). Izmir is a stronghold of the CHP and, their candidate there, Tunç Soyer, won the elections by 58.02% against his rival former AKP minister Nihat Zeybekçi, who could only reach 38.62%. The ruling party AKP (Justice and Development Party) eventually lost 3 major metropolitans — Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir — representing a population of nearly 25 million.

The results should be analyzed in relation to President Erdoğan; since, you can easily say that the results can be seen as a barometer of his standing, nine months after presidential elections and severe economic conditions. He spoke to his voters late on the election night claiming that AKP had an overall victory in the elections, 15 points ahead of CHP, the main opposition party. “Our party has emerged from the Turkish mayoral elections at the top by a wide margin,” said Erdoğan, adding “Although we may not have won the mayors of the metropolitan municipality, we have won most of its districts.” He also told his supporters not to be heartbroken, adding “We’re going to see how they’re going to manage the cities.” It doesn’t matter what he tells his supporters about the results ; it’s obvious that his popularity is declining, and the turnaround is as remarkable as his arrival on the political stage in 1994, again via a local election in which he was elected as Istanbul’s mayor.

Every party and/or alliance that took part in these local elections claims to be the winner; but who is the real winner? If we evaluate this through candidates, the winner is definitely the mayoral candidate of CHP (Republican People’s Party) for Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoğlu. He was İstanbul Beylikdüzü district’s serving mayor when announced for Istanbul. Both during the election campaign, and on D-Day, he drew attention with his cool stance, non-provocative attitude and crisis management. While the state — run Anadolu Agency stopped updating results for more than 13 hours after Binali Yildirim, candidate of AKP, declared victory on Sunday night, opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu held several press conferences to update their results. His persistent but cool stance was appreciated from all angles of opposition. “Neither can I be unjust to anyone, nor will I allow them to unjustly treat me,” Ekrem Imamoglu said in each of his speeches.

If the results are commented on in relation to political parties, MHP is definitely the winner of the 2019 local elections by winning 1 metropolitan, 10 provinces, and 145 districts. The highlighted topic of the whole election campaign, as well as the results, is the uptrend of the nationalist narrative across Turkey. When the total voting percentages of two nationalist parties, MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) and IYI (Good) Party, are summed up, it is more than 13 percent, and with the addition of the amount of nationalist tendencies among AKP voters, it is nearly 20 percent of all voters. It is also necessary to evaluate the shift of nationalist votes from AKP to MHP as an indicator among the results of local elections; and the concept of alliances should be interpreted with the help of those data. In the first sense, it is seen that MHP’s leader Devlet Bahçeli benefits more from People’s Alliance than AKP’s leader and President Tayyip Erdoğan.

Hope is possible

There are many other topics, indicators to be discussed and evaluated in a separate piece about the elections, such as the behaviors of Kurdish voters, HDP, new party rumors, etc., but lastly, the rising hope of people in opposition must be mentioned. As I said earlier, life in this part of the world is just like emotional roller coasters and completely unpredictable; but hope is the only thing you can’t lose here. Nothing is impossible here, and half of the Turkish people are more than happy and may be puzzled after the victory of opposition candidates in two major metropolitans. Following 17 years of experience of AKP rule and numerous defeats in several elections, March 31 elections are being hailed as a sign of hope, turn of luck, or at least, something to believe in.

Remembering the legendary Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet, for wrapping up the words and bless the light of hope for a better country:

Galloping from Far Asia and stretching

into the Mediterranean like a mare this country is ours.
Bloody wrested, teeth clenched, feet bare and this soil a silk carpet, this hell, this heaven is ours.
Shut the gates, don’t let them open again, destroy man’s servitude to man, this invitation is ours.
To live like a tree alone and free and in brotherhood like the forests, this yearning is ours.

Originally published at on April 2, 2019.




Researcher, translator and definitely a daydreamer

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Almila İlhan

Almila İlhan

Researcher, translator and definitely a daydreamer

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