Main opposition CHP, ruling AKP vie for controlling swing metropolitan municipalities

In the upcoming local elections, the ruling AKP is exerting considerable effort to secure victories in Antalya, Hatay, Eskişehir, and Adana, currently held by the main opposition CHP, while the CHP is determined to win Bursa, Balıkesir, and Manisa from the AKP.

Ceren Bayar / Gazete Duvar

Although Istanbul is at the center of the local election’s agenda due to the fierce race between the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the two parties also have been competing intensely to take Antalya, Hatay, Eskişehir, Adana, Bursa, Balıkesir, and Manisa metropolitan municipalities from each other.

In Turkey, provincial municipalities with a population of more than 750,000 are considered metropolitan municipalities.

The ruling People's Alliance considered that it has an advantage in the aforementioned seven metropolises against the CHP, which is competing without an alliance. Representatives of the ruling alliance said that a similar scenario to the 1994 local elections could be repeated 30 years later. 

Recalling that in the 1989 local elections, CHP’s predecessor Social Democratic Populist Party (SHP) won 39 provinces, including Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir, and lost more than half of the provinces five years later in 1994, the representatives of the People Alliance think that a similar picture may emerge in the 2024 elections.

CHP, on the other hand, believes that they have the advantage in metropolises where they are in power due to the services they provide and the popularity of their mayors. Believing that the AKP would lose votes across Turkey due to economic problems, poverty, and unemployment, CHP asserts that it can win the metropolises held by the AKP with strong candidates and a strong campaign.

Under these circumstances, AKP has started to campaign to take Antalya, Hatay, Eskişehir and Adana from CHP, while the latter has been campaigning to take Bursa, Balıkesir and Manisa from former.

Antalya: AKP more assertive in upcoming elections

In the 2019 local elections, CHP took the lead in southern Antalya with a difference of four points. However, pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and nationalist opposition Good (İYİ) Party did not field candidates in the province in the previous elections.

On March 31, candidates from both İYİ and HDP’s successor Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party would be on the ballot. On the other hand, AKP’s far-right ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) once again did not field any candidate and announced its support for AKP.

The CHP nominated Muhittin Böcek, the current mayor who governed Antalya for five years. The main opposition party nominated Böcek again and argued that he was strong in rural areas and was ahead in the surveys. AKP's candidate is the province’s Kepez district mayor Hakan Tütüncü. The ruling party argued that Tütüncü could stand out against Böcek with his services popularized in his district.

In the 2023 general elections in Antalya, CHP received 32.61 percent of the votes while AKP garnered 28.53 percent, Green Left Party, DEM’s predecessor, 4.73 percent and İYİ 11.58 percent.

ADANA: İYİ joins race between AKP-CHP

Southeastern Adana was a metropolitan province that the CHP won comfortably with an alliance in the 2019 elections after İYİ and HDP did not participate in the race in favor of the former’s candidate. The AKP also did not field a candidate in Adana in favor of the MHP, yet CHP candidate Zeydan Karalar received 53.63 percent of the votes, 11 points ahead of the MHP.

However, in the 2024 local elections, AKP will run a joint candidate instead of the MHP, and the İYİ and CHP will compete with separate candidates. While AKP nominated Yüreğir district mayor Mehmet Fatih Kocaispir and CHP nominated Karalar, İYİ entered the local race with a very strong candidate for the province, Ayyüce Türkeş, the daughter of former MHP chair Alparslan Türkeş.

İYİ asserted that Türkeş can consolidate all nationalist votes in the province while DEM party executives stated that they were closer to not running a candidate in Adana.

In the general elections, AKP received 30.37 percent of the votes whereas CHP garnered 28.80 percent, MHP 11.03 percent, İYİ 10.99 percent and Green Left Party 9.72 percent.

HATAY: Quake-torn province’s election 

Hatay was one of the metropolises that the CHP won with an alliance in the last elections whose candidate Lütfü Savaş won by 13 points over his closest rival, the AKP candidate. 

Hatay suffered huge losses due to the Feb. 6 earthquakes and many inhabitants held also Savaş responsible for the grave destruction. CHP re-nominated Savaş despite all criticisms and Savaş faced intense protests during commemoration ceremony in the province for the first year of the quakes.

Leftist and socialist organizations, including Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) and DEM which have a vote potential of more than 10 percent in the province, are not expected to support Savaş. The decision of these parties will likely to be decisive in the election results.

AKP fielded former Hatay Deputy Mehmet Öntürk in the province. Nonetheless, the anger against the ruling party aggravated particularly after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened Hatay constituents with not “receiving services” if they would not vote for AKP. 

In the 2023 elections, AKP received 33.54 percent of the votes while CHP garnered 28.55 percent, İYİ 8.17 percent, TİP 8.76 percent, and Green Left 3.02 percent.

ESKİŞEHİR: CHP not to nominate 25-year mayor

The balance in Central Anatolian Eskişehir province has changed a lot from 2019 to 2024. The alliance between İYİ and CHP broke down, İYİ’s Eskişehir lawmaker Nebi Hatipoğlu switched to AKP and became its mayoral candidate. After 25 years of governing Eskişehir, CHP did not nominated Yılmaz Büyükerşen and nominated Ayşe Ünlüce.

Some suggested that the absence of Büyükerşen as a candidate may lead to a partial decline in CHP votes in the province, while the strong candidacy of Melih Aydın from İYİ and Hatipoğlu from AKP among bussiness groups could also impact the election outcome.

In the last general elections, CHP garnered 34.41 percent of the votes, followed by the AKP with 32.76 percent, İYİ with 14.16 percent, and MHP with 7.18 percent.

BALIKESİR: İYİ to change balance, again

In the 2019 elections, CHP and İYİ also formed an alliance in northwestern Balıkesir province and supported the İYİ’s candidate. MHP also favored AKP and did not nominate a candidate. İYİ’s candidate lost by about one point and AKP candidate Yücel Yılmaz won. In the upcoming elections, the ruling alliance continues with the same candidate.

İYİ nominated Balıkesir Deputy Turhan Çömez, a strong name well known by the locals. CHP's candidate is Balıkesir Deputy Ahmet Akın, who withdrew his candidacy after the alliance with the İYİ Party in the last elections.

In general elections, AKP received 34.34 percent of the votes while CHP garnered 31.74 percent and İYİ 14.98 percent.

BURSA: CHP continues longing for win

Bursa was a significant loss for the CHP in the 2019 local elections, and although they aimed to reclaim it in the upcoming elections, there was no alliance similar to that of 2019. Mustafa Bozbey, the CHP candidate, who narrowly lost in the previous election, was expected to attract votes from various opposition groups in the province. 

The decision of the DEM regarding Bursa is still pending, while the İYİ nominated Bursa lawmaker Selçuk Türkoğlu, and the AKP's candidate became the incumbent mayor Alinur Aktaş. 

In the 2023 elections, the AKP secured 38.80 percent of the votes, followed by CHP with 24.40 percent, İYİ with 12.19 percent, DEM with 4.28 percent, and MHP with 8.53 percent in Bursa.

MANİSA: CHP and İYİ to race in hometown

Manisa, the site of alliance battles in the last local elections, witnessed a victory for the candidate of the People's Alliance, MHP's Cengiz Ergün. Ergün secured 52 percent of the votes in 2019, becoming the first mayor to win province for the third consecutive time. On the other side İYİ candidate Orkun Şıktaşlı, representing the main opposition Nation Alliance, fell short with 38 percent.

MHP once again nominated Ergün for this election, positioning him as one of the most promising candidates. Meanwhile, CHP has been conducting a special campaign in Manisa due to it being the hometown of the party's new leader, Özgür Özel. Ferdi Zeyrek, who withdrew his candidacy for metropolitan mayor in 2019 to support the Nation Alliance's candidate from the İYİ Party, is reportedly a strong contender in this election.However, unlike in 2019, İYİ Party and CHP are competitors rather than allies in this election.

Another candidate is Selçuk Özdağ, a Future Party lawmaker from Muğla. Being a local of Manisa and having a strong voter base in the city, Özdağ is expected to garner votes from AKP and MHP, potentially increasing the chances of victory for the CHP candidate.

DEM is expected to not field a candidate to ensure MHP's defeat in the province.

AKP secured 31.32 percent of the votes, followed closely by CHP with 29.63 in the general elections. MHP garnered 14.21 percent, İYİ received 11.31 percent, and the Green Left Party obtained 5.64 percent.

(English version by Can Bodrumlu)