Political parties gear up early for local elections

Political parties gear up early for local elections

November 09, 2008, Sunday/ 14:37:00/ ERCAN YAVUZ
Political parties have already started to campaign for the upcoming local elections, which will be held on March 29, 2009.The Justice and Development Party (AK Party), the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) launched their campaigns for the race.

 The AK Party's goal in the elections is to further their success in the 2004 elections, whereas the CHP wants to win back key mayoral posts in Gaziantep, Kocaeli and Antalya. Some parties' election strategies include temporary alliances with ideologically similar parties. In the East and Southeast, the election race will primarily be between the AK Party and the Democratic Society Party (DTP).

The AK Party hopes to consolidate its success in 2009 by attracting greater voter support. The AK Party, which increased its share of the vote from 35 percent in the 2002 general elections to 41 percent in the 2004 local elections, received 47 percent of the vote in the general elections held on July 22, 2007. The party's current goal is to receive at least 50 percent of the vote in the upcoming elections.

AK Party Deputy Chairman for Local Administrations Hüseyin Tanrıverdi expects his party to have the support of 55-60 percent of voters, pointing out that they have taken their success further in every election.

The AK Party, which won 57 provinces, 468 districts and 1,247 sub-districts in the local elections in 2004, currently governs 1,647 municipalities. The primary goal of the AK Party is to acquire the remaining CHP strongholds, including the İzmir and Mersin metropolitan municipalities, the Trabzon and Çanakkale municipalities and the Çankaya municipality in Ankara as well as Kadıköy, Şişli and Bakırköy in Istanbul.

The AK Party also seeks victories in the East and Southeast, where the pro-Kurdish DTP has a visible influence. The AK Party, which won a landslide victory in the region against the DTP in 2004, wants to win in a number of DTP strongholds including the Diyarbakır Metropolitan Municipality. The party won mayoral posts in Ağrı, Siirt, Bingöl and Van, which are also considered DTP strongholds, in the 2004 elections.

AK Party gives psychology lectures to candidates 

The AK Party will finalize its list of candidates after holding interviews. The party has already started training some of its candidates at the School of Local Administrations, where they take classes on municipal services as well as psychology.

In addition to prominent politicians, renowned scholars -- including Professor Niyazi Öktem, Professor İlber Ortaylı, Professor Nadir Yayla, Professor Haluk Gerçek and Professor Üstün Dökmen -- give lectures at the school, which was specifically designed to train local administrations. Candidates are taught about municipal water supplies, sewage systems, environmental protection, wastewater purification, legal philosophy, political history, ethical issues in local administration, unplanned urbanization, tourism, basic financial management, budgeting, crisis management, public health and local administration in the information age.

CHP wants to win in six metropolitan areas

The main opposition party seeks to increase its vote, taking it above 22 percent. It appears that the CHP will rely on forming an alliance with other leftist parties to achieve this goal.

The CHP, which lost its strongholds in Antalya and Gaziantep to the AK Party in the 2004 local elections, currently hopes to win these two back and as well as winning four additional metropolitan municipalities. The CHP is sure that it will not lose Mersin, which is currently run by a CHP mayor.

The CHP did not nominate any candidate in Eskişehir in order to support Yılmaz Büyükerşen from the Democratic Left Party (DSP) in 2004 and will seek to include Büyükerşen on its list for this election. However, a recent polemic with him jeopardizes the CHP's plan to win this city. The CHP also intends to attract the DSP local party administrators in Bartın and Ordu, which currently are governed by DSP mayors. Meanwhile, the DSP appears to be determined not to cooperate with the CHP despite the alliance between these parties in the 2007 elections.

The CHP hopes to win the Kocaeli Metropolitan Municipality with Sefa Sirmen and Gaziantep with former State Minister Mustafa Yılmaz. CHP leader Deniz Baykal also dreams of winning Ankara; to achieve this goal, he made an agreement with Social Democratic People's Party (SHP) leader Murat Karayalçın, who will run as a CHP candidate. The CHP expects to increase its share of the vote to 30 percent in the local elections.

MHP focuses on two metropolitan municipalities 

The MHP plans to win at least 10 city municipalities, including two metropolitan administrations. The MHP's goal is to acquire the Mersin Metropolitan Municipality, current under CHP control, and the Erzurum Metropolitan Municipality, which it lost to the AK Party in 2004. In 2004 the MHP won municipal posts in Niğde, Iğdır, Kastamonu and Gümüşhane, but it was not represented in Parliament. The MHP, which did not nominate a candidate in many districts in 2004, has decided to abandon this policy. An MHP commission will pick its candidates based on interviews it will be conducting until Nov. 14.

DTP seeks remedy for loss of support

The Democratic Society Party (DTP), which participated in the 2004 local elections as part of a broad alliance with the SHP, the Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP) and the Labor Party (EMEP), now has ambitions to win metropolitan municipalities and keep its stronghold of Diyarbakır. DTP figures are furious about remarks made by AK Party leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who urged his party fellows to work hard to win the city.

The DTP, which lost the Ağrı, Bingöl, Van and Siirt municipalities to the AK Party in the 2004 local elections, seeks to remedy its loss of support in the region. Experts attribute recent violent events in Southeast -- provoked by DTP allegations that outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan was subjected to maltreatment and torture in prison -- to the party's concern over the results of the upcoming elections. The DTP reportedly seeks to escalate tension and violence to make sure that local voters will not move towards other parties. The DTP also expects to reacquire its strongholds in the event of a Constitutional Court decision closing down the party.

The Democrat Party (DP) -- the True Path Party (DYP) in the 2004 elections -- won Elazığ, 88 districts and 297 sub-districts. This time, however, it will be difficult for the party to win Elazığ, the hometown of former DP Chairman Mehmet Ağar. The DP still expects to win two cities.

Another center-right party, the Motherland Party (ANAVATAN), won 27 districts and 76 sub-districts in the 2004 elections. ANAVATAN will most likely be unable to repeat the same performance in this election.

The Democratic Left Party (DSP), which won the Eskişehir Metropolitan Municipality, the Bartın and Ordu city municipalities as well as five district and 24 sub-district municipalities in 2004, wants to perform similarly this time around. The DSP is readying to recruit Şişli Mayor Mustafa Sarıgül, who was expelled from the CHP. The party plans to nominate him for mayor of the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality. In the event that Sarıgül is not persuaded, Yurt Party (YP) leader Sadettin Tantan will be considered for the same post.

The goal of the Felicity Party (SP), which has recently elected Numan Kurtulmuş as its new leader, is to reacquire its stronghold of Konya, where the AK Party won a landslide victory in 2004. The SP plans to unveil big surprises in the upcoming elections. 


AK Party: 41.67

CHP: 18.2

MHP: 10.10

DYP (True Path Party): 9.95

SHP (Social Democrat People's Party): 5.10

SP (Felicity Party): 3.97

GP (Young Party): 2.58

ANAVATAN (Motherland Party): 2.52

DSP (Democratic Left Party): 2.13

BBP (Grand Unity Party): 1.15

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