Washington, D.C. — Today, as Turkey prepares for key local elections on March 30, cast by both sides as a referendum on the Justice and Development Party’s, or AKP’s, rule, the Center for American Progress released an analysis on what the elections will mean for this key NATO ally.
“These elections are a crucial test of Prime Minister Erdoğan’s eroding legitimacy,” said Michael Werz, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. “It will be the first opportunity for Turkish voters to express their opinions in the wake of a series of political upheavals and scandals that have considerably weakened the AKP’s brand.”
Turkey is in the midst of a deep political crisis rooted in a corruption scandal, concerns about Prime Minister Erdoğan’s authoritarian tendencies, and a slowing economy. Erdoğan has fired hundreds of police investigators and prosecutors and implemented strict new controls on the Internet, including blocking access to Twitter. These moves are the latest in a long-term effort to muzzle dissent and stifle press freedom.
The AKP is expected to maintain control of Istanbul but will likely see their share of the vote diminished. Ankara is too close to call. If the AKP loses big, calls for Erdoğan to work toward a succession may increase. With the stakes so high, both major parties have voiced concerns about violence, protests, and electoral fraud.
The March 30 elections do not appear to hold the promise of an immediate resolution to Turkey’s political crisis, although they do hold the slight possibility of a violent deterioration. More likely, a muddled result will mark another waypoint in a protracted period of consolidation and revision within the broad conservative movement.
Turkish society and politics will endure a painful consolidation phase over the next year. The battle within the conservative movement risks permanent, irreparable damage to Turkish political and judicial institutions. There also remains the risk that Prime Minister Erdoğan will further deepen societal divisions within the country in an effort to hold onto power or, at worst, attempt to influence the polls. Such an outcome would be a disastrous setback for Turkey and cause for serious diplomatic reactions from the United States and European Union.
Read the analysis: Turkey in Turmoil by Michael Werz and Max Hoffman
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