Op-Ed: Local Elections in Türkiye

by Prof. Fahrettin Altun
Director of Communications, Nation of Türkiye

Fair, transparent, and regular elections are the most fundamental components of modern democracies. In democratic systems, it is fundamental that the authority and power of those in power be derived from the electorate or the governed. These powers are renewed through regular elections. Through elections, the governed vote on the governors’ policies and performance, evaluating them positively or negatively. 

Since transitioning to a multi-party system in 1946, Türkiye has been a leader in holding regular, fair, and transparent elections. Utilizing institutions such as the Supreme Election Council (YSK), elections in Türkiye are conducted with the oversight of independent judges. Therefore, Türkiye has a sophisticated political culture ensuring election security and citizens’ trust in the ballot box.

The participation rates in elections in Türkiye demonstrate trust in elections and ballot boxes. Regarding voter turnout, Türkiye became the third country with the highest election participation among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in the presidential and parliamentary elections held on May 14, 2023. According to YSK data, the domestic turnout rate was 88.92 percent in the elections on May 14 and 85.72 percent in the second round of the presidential elections on May 28. According to the data from the OECD and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), Türkiye surpassed many Western OECD members, such as the US, France, Germany, and the UK, regarding the domestic election participation rate on May 14. Another striking aspect of this data is that the participation rate in elections in Türkiye is even higher than in countries like Sweden, Denmark, New Zealand, Iceland, the Netherlands, and Norway, where participation in elections is around 80 percent. 

Türkiye will vote again on Sunday, March 31, for local elections. Türkiye’s commitment to democratic values and innovative vision regarding local administrations, highlighted by the March 31 local elections, is of utmost importance nationally and internationally. At the same time, the campaigns conducted in safe and fair conditions during this election process demonstrate that Türkiye is one of the leading countries in the region in terms of democratic maturity and the significance placed on local administrations. 

We place a high value on local administrations, who are the significant interlocutors in answering people’s needs and expectations and have a vision and perspective appropriate for the times. This process inevitably plays an influential role in strengthening the public’s democratic participation and communication with local administrations.

What distinguishes our innovative municipal understanding, which we have had for years, is its goal of improving the public’s quality of life, transparency, accountability under all circumstances, and, most importantly, the construction of citizen-focused administrations and technology and sustainable development projects. Under the leadership of our President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who assumed the responsibility of governing Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality in the 1994 local elections, which were the first step and a tangible example of this vision, Türkiye has taken significant steps towards improving people’s quality of life in the field of municipal governance. It is the fundamental political vision of our municipalities to uphold the politics of service and the vision our President set 30 years ago. For this reason, maintaining a similar vision and understanding of service with the upcoming local elections will further strengthen our democratic values and social integrity in the national and international arena.

We regard the March 31, 2024, local elections as an essential milestone in Türkiye’s journey towards democracy. This election is also a further step in strengthening Türkiye’s vision of regional leadership, and we recognize it as a momentous occasion that will increase the democratic maturity and social participation of our country from a universal perspective. Moreover, like all previous elections, these will enable the Turkish people to participate more actively in democratic processes, thus strengthening our democracy. 

Another critical aspect of the March 31 elections is that there will not be another election within four years after these elections. In these four years, Türkiye will carry on without losing momentum with the development initiatives launched under the leadership of our President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The services provided in recent years in every field, from communication to diplomacy, economic development to infrastructure investments, will be maintained. In addition, the goal of entering the Century of Türkiye with a new and civil constitution will be the most crucial cause and agenda item for the next four years. 

Within the framework of this vision and with the aspiration to be a regional and global actor, Türkiye will strive to build the Century of Türkiye by raising its democratic standards and increasing its levels of income and welfare. Our priorities in this period will continue to advance our mutual interests and increase new and strategic cooperation with our Western allies. It is our most basic expectation as a requisite of an alliance relationship that Türkiye’s political sensitivities, particularly the fight against terrorist organizations such as the PKK, FETO and DAESH, are respected. 

With the March 31 elections, Türkiye will not only add another successful election to its democratic culture but also prepare its provinces, particularly Istanbul and Ankara, for the Century of Türkiye. Our most crucial vision after the elections will be national development, restoring and reconstructing the cities hit by the February 6 earthquake and transforming cities with high earthquake risk, such as Istanbul, into resilient cities. 

Türkiye will conduct its elections per democratic procedures as it has done thus far, respect the outcomes with both ruling and opposition parties, and, most importantly, as a stabilizing power in the international arena, continue to establish the Century of Türkiye. Therefore, it is plausible that the March 31 Local Elections are set to impact Türkiye’s coming decades in terms of its internal and external dynamics. 

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