Jun 12 2019

Turkey’s ruling party to be more populist after Istanbul vote - analysis

Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will embrace more populist foreign and domestic policies following the rerun of the Istanbul mayoral election on June 23, regardless of whether it wins, the U.S. geopolitical intelligence publisher Stratfor said on Tuesday. 

After Turkey’s election council nullified the March 31 polls in Istanbul over the AKP’s charges of irregularities, the ruling party has stepped up efforts to retake control of Turkey’s financial hub, where it faces defeat for the first time in 25 years.

Stratfor sad the AKP’s losses in Turkey’s most populous provinces in the nationwide local elections in March might have served as a "canary in the coal mine" for the party's waning national popularity and increasingly tenuous place in power. The popularity of the secularist opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Istanbul mayoral candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu is also on the rise. 

“Thus, there is no doubt that the AKP is looking at the June 23 race with the 2023 presidential race in mind, as well as the threat that the CHP presents to its continued political dominance,” Stratfor said. 

In a bid to consolidate power and drum up support, the AKP’s renewed push after the June 23 polls will include asserting national interests above those of Turkey's foreign allies, Stratfor said. 

Tensions between the United States and Turkey have escalated in recent weeks over Ankara’s decision to buy Russian S-400 missile systems. The United States says the Russian batteries pose a threat to NATO weapons systems and has threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey if it goes ahead with the purchase.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s accession negotiations with the European Union are at standstill. Turkey has also problems with EU members Greece and Cyprus over potentially rich hydrocarbon reserves in Eastern Mediterranean. 

“Defending Ankara's national interests among stronger powers like the European Union and the United States will help the AKP-led government shore up its domestic political power by playing up its patriotic appeal,” the analysis platform said. 

Turkey will also continue to promote harsh policies against Turkey’s Kurds and continue to deepen Turkish operations against Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria, Stratfor said.