No matter what the earth science says, the longest night of the year is an election night in Turkey.

That’s next Sunday, March 31, as Turkey once again goes to the ballot boxes, this time for local elections.

We wish you patience, tenacity and memes to get through the night. Your election guide is on us.

Local vote, national implications

On March 31, citizens will cast votes to choose their local-level governors, mayors and representatives.

For the ruling AKP, it’s a chance to consolidate political power from last year’s general elections. Their aim is to reclaim the country's largest cities – like İstanbul and Ankara – and Erdoğan said he is determined to do whatever it takes.

Erdoğan factor

Erdoğan also said this will be last election of his political career.  

That is, if no constitutional changes allow him another term, and no snap elections take place. Anything is possible.

But for now, he’s rallying like it’s the last one and campaigning across the nation for his party. His face is also prominent on street banners alongside local “no-name” candidates.

AKP eyes for victory

While the AKP was defeated in major metro areas in 2019, it won 39 out of 81 cities and secured majorities in provincial assemblies.

Its main ally, the ultra-nationalist MHP, played a crucial role back then and will do so again this year.

MHP won 11 municipalities in 2019, and will compete in just 24 cities on March 31, supporting AKP candidates elsewhere.

Divided we fall

In the 2019 rerun vote, Ekrem İmamoğlu took İstanbul with a 9% margin over the AKP.

He did so with the backing of various parties, including the pro-Kurdish HDP and Akşener’s İYİ Party.

Since the opposition is not supporting a single mayoral candidate this time, İmamoğlu’s re-election bid is weakened as DEM and İYİ Party supporters make up about 10-12% of voters in İstanbul.

That said, AKP’s candidate Murat Kurum has a shot at the İstanbul mayorship.

What do the polls say?

Most survey companies forecast a CHP win in Turkey’s 3 major cities: İstanbul, Ankara and İzmir.

Bursa and Adana are expected to be close races, as in 2019 when AKP and CHP won, respectively, with small margins. CHP could lose Adana, as a strong İYİ Party candidate is also in the game this time.

CHP could also face a defeat in its stronghold Eskişehir, as polls show a knife-edge race.

Candidate crises in Hatay

Quake-hit Hatay is another potential “swing-state” since CHP re-nominated the incumbent mayor Lütfü Savaş despite heavy post-quake criticism of his performance, which could lead to a CHP loss.

Bringing more ambiguity to the Hatay race, leaked calls between TİP’s Hatay candidate Gökhan Zan and an AKP member sparked allegations of backdoor deals.

Separately, Future Party candidates for Mardin and Şanlıurfa withdrew from the race this week and endorsed the AKP candidates instead.

Vote in times of low-lira

The vote comes as the TL faces a steady devaluation, placing it as 2024’s third worst-performing emerging market currency against the USD. 

Foreign currency and gold rates have reached record-highs, on top of a surging cost-of-living crisis as official annual inflation tops 67%. 

In a surprise move, the CB raised the interest rates to 50% Thursday, continuing monetary tightening policy, but the post-election period will only bring more uncertainty for Turkey’s economy.

Source: Turkey recap

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