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Türkiye’s CHP Set to Announce Candidates for Municipal Elections

The CHP will unveil a partial list of candidates for the 2024 local elections as the main opposition struggles to lift the spirits of voters after a devastating loss in May’s general elections

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) is expected to unveil some of its candidates for the March 2024 local elections this week. Party Chair Özgür Özel will announce candidates for some mayoral seats on Thursday at the party’s board meeting, media outlets reported on Tuesday. It is unclear whether candidates for major cities will be declared at Thursday’s event, while media reports say they will be announced in separate news conferences within the coming weeks.

The party recently wrapped up the candidate application process. More than 15,000 people applied for mayors’ seats. The CHP is also scheduled to reveal its election strategy at the board meeting.

The CHP ran several opinion polls to determine candidates. The polls, ongoing since Nov. 27, ask voters and party members about their view of current mayors.

The party, which lost to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in May’s general elections, seeks to repair its image as the chronic loser of Turkish politics since it first came to power more than two decades ago. It replaced its longstanding chair, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, in November and set its sights on garnering municipal seats after an unprecedented victory in the 2019 municipal elections in Istanbul. Though it is confident of keeping seats in traditional strongholds like Izmir in western Türkiye, the election race will be tight elsewhere. The AK Party is expected to run an intense campaign to retake seats it lost to the CHP in the 2019 vote.

The party is No. 2 in Türkiye in terms of support but needs votes from other opposition parties to win in certain cities. It looked to rally an alliance of opposition parties just as it did before the general elections, but the alliance crumbled when it lost its biggest ally, Good Party (IP), earlier this month.

The right-wing nationalist IP pulled out of the alliance in the wake of the election and blamed the CHP for the opposition’s poor showing in the parliamentary portion of May’s vote. And the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the CHP’s second-biggest ally largely affiliated with the PKK terrorist group, which informally changed its name to Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (HEDEP) (and later to DEM) recently announced plans to run its own candidates in March, a move that could help Erdoğan’s allies by splitting the vote in ethnically mixed cities such as Istanbul. The HDP has some 10% support nationwide, mostly from Kurdish voters.

Despite the IP’s refusal, the CHP trusts that their voter bases will form their own alliance, helping the CHP maintain the 2019 numbers in Istanbul and Ankara. “Old friends don’t turn into enemies. The Good Party is part of good people with whom we have achieved success in the past and will accomplish many more things in the future,” Özel said after the IP’s decision. Urging his members not to resent their former partner, he said the CHP would, from now on, expand its search for alliance to the “social base.”

The CHP’s main rival, the AK Party, is also expected to unveil its candidates starting in mid-December. Some 6,000 people applied for candidacy for the AK Party. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who also serves as AK Party chair, after consulting with the party administration, will give final approval to the candidate list. The party recently held a digital vote, asking its members to choose among potential candidates. The party is already conducting public opinion polls on potential candidates. The AK Party launched an unofficial election campaign one day after the first round of general elections on May 14. Despite uncertainty about the outcome of the runoff held on May 28, the party has already focused on municipal elections. It first renewed cadres, replacing 52 provincial chairs and over 400 district chairs. Following the recent extraordinary congress, the party also added new names to its central executive committee and parted ways with some stalwart figures.

Erdoğan has instructed his party to seek out candidates with a good public image, “not candidates simply favored (by political lobbies).” The AK Party lost control of Istanbul and Ankara for the first time in 25 years, as well as five of Türkiye’s largest cities, to the CHP in the 2019 elections, something the opposition characterized as a blow to the AK Party’s popularity. However, both the president and his party came out victorious in May.

Source: Daily Sabah