Revealing the AK Party’s Candidate Selection Strategy

As the upcoming local elections are a crucial turning point for the AK Party and the consolidation of the new political system, the candidate selection process was important to establish a successful election strategy.

Revealing the AK Party s Candidate Selection Strategy
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech as he attends his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party meeting to announce candidates for local elections at the Halic Congress Center in Istanbul, Turkey on November 24, 2018. Anadolu Agency

Within the past two weeks, Turkey’s governing AK Party revealed a significant number of mayor candidates for the upcoming local elections. After negotiations between the AK Party and the MHP on forming an alliance again, both parties have accelerated their preparations for the elections. As these elections are a crucial turning point for the AK Party and the consolidation of the new political system, the candidate selection process was important to establish a successful election strategy.

President Erdogan’s three-term rule, which limits running for office for a maximum of three terms, with the purpose of providing dynamism and rejuvenation in party cadres has been implemented for the first time in local elections. Due to this reason, 91 mayors of provinces and counties currently serving could not be re-nominated. The first round of candidates were announced by President Erdogan on 24 November. These included the candidates of 40 provinces, consisting of politicians, NGO leaders, governors, and former ministers. President Erdogan underlined again that competency and the merit of the candidate compose the criteria that the AK Party has used in the candidate selection process.

As the upcoming local elections are a crucial turning point for the AK Party and the consolidation of the new political system, the candidate selection process was important to establish a successful election strategy.

The second round of candidates were announced soon after, on 27 November. The most striking names in this second group were the candidates of Ankara and Izmir. The deputy chair of the AK Party, Mehmet Ozhaseki, was nominated for Ankara, while the former Minister of Economy Nihat Zeybekci became the mayoral candidate for Izmir. Ozhaseki and Zeybekci are well-known politicians throughout the country and their nomination was a sign that the AK Party is paying more attention to these metropolitan cities. Nevertheless, even if the candidacy of Binali Yildirim for Istanbul is almost certain, it is yet to be announced to the public.

The candidates for Ankara, Istanbul, and Izmir form the cornerstones of the AK Party’s election strategy. As Bahceli announced, the MHP will not nominate candidates in provinces that the AK Party has, and will support the AK Party’s candidate in order to maintain the solidarity of the coalition formed during the June 24 elections. As a result of this, the People’s Alliance has already significantly gone ahead of the game. The AK Party nominated three high-profile politicians to attract the voters in these electoral districts, and these candidates have been welcomed by the MHP. Thus, the candidate selection strategy of the AK Party in these provinces received successful reflections by both parties.

President Erdogan’s three-term rule, which limits running for office for a maximum of three terms, with the purpose of providing dynamism and rejuvenation in party cadres has been implemented for the first time in local elections.

Nonetheless, the AK Party is aware of the rejuvenation demands among the masses. In accordance with this purpose, the party has made significant changes in its candidate profiles. For instance, only 10 out of 40 among the first group of candidates are currently serving mayors of their electoral districts. This shows that the AK Party is paying attention to the mobilization in local administration.

The rest of the AK Party’s candidates will be announced throughout December along with the party’s election manifesto. It is possible to see some joint candidates as part of a cooperation between the AK Party and the MHP. Negotiations on the possibilities and limitations of the alliance are being conducted precisely. The concrete results of these negotiations will be seen in the following days as the rest of the candidates are announced.

Hazal Duran
Hazal Duran conducted her B.A in the fields of Turkish Language and Literature and International Relations at the TOBB University of Economics and Technology in 2012. She completed her M.A in Modern Turkish Studies at Istanbul Sehir University. While continuing her doctoral studies at Bilkent University, she is currently serving as a Researcher at the SETA Ankara Directorate of Political Studies.