Turkey is entering an election cycle with three upcoming races. Municipal elections on March 30th and the presidential election in August will be followed by parliamentary elections in 2015. The outcome of the local elections at the end of this month may not bring much surprise, but it will determine the ruling AK Party’s presidential candidate. As the country went through a tense year in 2013 with critical developments due to the Kurdish peace process, Gezi Park events and the AK Party-Gulen split, Turkey’s upcoming elections will have far-reaching consequences for the political future of the country.
Ambassador James F. Jeffrey, Philip Solondz Distinguished Fellow, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Erol Cebeci, Executive Director, SETA Foundation at Washington, DC
Kadir Ustun, Research Director, SETA Foundation at Washington, DC
By Sabeen Ahmed
Erol Cebeci and Ambassador James F. Jeffrey discussed the upcoming municipal, presidential, and parliamentary elections that will take place in quick succession in Turkey over the next 15 months. As stated by Mr. Cebeci, the election year will begin with local elections on March 30th and determine Turkey’s political future for the next five years. Given recent regional and internal developments, this period is certain to be a critical turning point in Turkey domestically, regionally, and internationally.
Mr. Cebeci examined the three most critical areas that have been discussed in local election campaigns: the Kurdish peace process, the Gezi events, and the AKP-Gulen relationship. Though not local issues, these areas have the potential to impact the success or failure of the ruling party in all three elections. Mr. Cebeci touched on each issue area and its significance on the election results. Finally, he analyzed the strategies of the opposition parties, and discussed the possible influence of the local elections on the opposition’s strength for the remainder of the election year.
Ambassador Jeffrey briefly touched on the three areas discussed by Mr. Cebeci, before focusing on the foreign policy implications of the elections. According to Ambassador Jeffrey, Turkish foreign policy will be important after the elections, as it provides an opportunity for Prime Minister Erdogan to reestablish his international influence. He divided Turkey’s foreign policy interests among eight key actors – Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia, Israel, the European Union, Cyprus and Greece, and the U.S. and NATO – and in turn discussed each actor’s relationship with Turkey.