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Turkish Local Elections: A Referendum on President Erdogan?

Turkish Local Elections: A Referendum on President Erdogan?
Our final topic, picked by you, dear listeners, earlier in a poll on our Facebook page, is “Turkish Local Elections: A Referendum On President Erdogan?”, focusing on this Sunday’s elections.

This Sunday's local elections in Turkey are the first since the failed 2016 coup attempt and are therefore seen as a referendum of sorts on President Erdogan. The Turkish leader won reelection last year and his AKP also came out on top in parliamentary elections, but the lira has tumbled since then as a result of what President Erdogan claimed at the time was the US' attempt to use economic warfare against his country as punishment for its independent foreign policy. The opposition has tried to capitalize on the uncertain state of economic affairs in the country and the perception of so-called "voter fatigue" with the AKP to position themselves as a refreshing alternative to the comparatively stagnant status quo.

There are also ethno-regionalist dimensions to the upcoming elections as well. The pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (known by its Turkish abbreviation as the HDP) entered into what The Middle East Eye described as a "veiled alliance" with other opposition forces in order to return to power in the geostrategic southeastern part of the country where many of its leaders were replaced by court order over the past few years. President Erdogan previously said that some of the party's leaders could be replaced because of their suspected links to the outlawed PKK terrorist organization if they win the upcoming elections, which has controversially raised claims of creeping authoritarianism but which some see as possibly being necessary to prevent another outbreak of instability.

On the topic of perceptions, pundits both at home and abroad have been opining for the past couple of years about the historic crossroads that Turkey has found itself in lately. The AKP channels populist Islamist sentiment in what is constitutionally a secular state, which the opposition considers to be contrary to the modern-day country's founding principles under Ataturk. It's for this reason why they're so vehemently insisting that their supporters go to the polls this Sunday in what some are portraying as a last-ditch effort to save the state as they know it, while the AKP's supporters are encouraged for the opposite reason of continuing President Erdogan's gradual systemic reforms that they consider to be pragmatic, just, and popular.

Andrew Korybko is joined by Serap Balaman, Turkish political commentator.

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