The silently advancing local election plan between the AKP and MHP, with the added advantage of the disarray in the opposition following the 24 June elections, has evolved in the direction of an alliance after MHP General Chair Devlet Bahçeli made a move in this direction. Even if an official “yes” is yet to come from the AKP, it is viewed as certain in both ruling and opposition lobbies that the two parties will embark on the local elections in an alliance. The AKP-MHP alliance, which brought the election slated for 2019 forward by one and a half years due to the crisis expected in the economy, was actually also planning to move the local elections to November. The goal of winning municipalities through alliance by further taking advantage of the opposition’s unpreparedness has been frustrated by the inability to attain the numbers needed to bring about constitutional change.
50%+1 will be needed
President and AKP General Chair Tayyip Erdoğan has set the bar for candidates to be fielded in the local elections by saying “the goal is 50%+1 of the vote.” The alliance mooted by Bahçeli is seen in the AKP as being the only formula that will break the roughly 50%-50% balance that has been in place since the 2017 referendum. In the face of troubles in the economy, the reluctance being expressed by the Good Party and Felicity Party over entering an alliance this time is considered to be a further advantage. Thus, an alliance to which the AKP brings an advantage and which will give the MHP the municipalities it holds and new gains in Anatolia no longer appears politically difficult.
The first name is Soylu
The blank cheque that the MHP has given for an alliance found its first counterpart in the AKP in the desired qualities and names of candidates. With its number of seats in parliament having fallen below 300, the AKP had for some time been hesitant to field MPs and ministers as local election candidates. However, the MHP’s move rendered the loss of a few seats in parliament unimportant for the AKP. Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, whose name had previously been mentioned in the lobbies among candidates, has begun to be spoken of as the strongest name in a potential alliance. There had been talk within the AKP of the Istanbul Metropolitan candidacy with reference to Soylu, the name most spoken of in the ruling block and who most recently came to attention with his harsh intervention against the Saturday Mothers. The lack of enthusiasm for the Istanbul candidacy from Binali Yıldırım, who is currently Parliamentary Speaker, led to Soylu’s name being considered. However, looking back at election results and most recently the 24 June election results, Soylu was not given the go-ahead for Istanbul. The high HDP vote and that of Kurds of all varieties from conservative to liberal and left-wing in Istanbul led to the view within the AKP that he would be unable to win Istanbul. A change of address was thus made for Soylu. The results in Ankara and the large size of the MHP vote and that of all varieties of the nationalist right as against the lower level of the HDP, Kurdish and left-wing vote was seen as a boosting factor behind the march to Ankara by Soylu, the most loved figure of late among such circles.
Ex-ministers in place of curators
Alongside Soylu, the AKP is discussing the candidacy in the local elections of members of parliament who served as ministers in the previous government. It is indicated that the party, which has been continuing its search for candidates internally and externally to the party, may field well-known ministers and parliamentarians for municipalities, most notably Diyarbakır, that have for some time been managed by curators. There is also talk that the number of such individuals may rise to five.