The Outcome and Consequences of the 2024 Local Elections in Türkiye

On the 31st of March, the main opposition party – the Republican People’s Party (CHP) – has unexpectedly won the nationwide local elections for the first time since 1977, defeating Türkiye’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), which had governed since 2002. Despite the unquestionable victory of the opposition, exercising restraint in predicting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s inevitable downfall and the restoration of Turkish democracy is advisable.

The Outcome of the March 2024 Local Elections

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) surprisingly won the March local elections nationwide for the first time since 1977 by receiving 37.76% of votes. Right behind the CHP was the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) with 35.48%. The podium was unpredictably closed by the right-wing New Welfare Party (YRP) with 6.19%. The YRP was followed by the pro-Kurdish People’s Equality and Democracy Party (DEM) with 5.7% of votes, the ultranationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) with 4.98%, and the Good Party (İyi Parti) with a disappointing result of 3.77%. Voter turnout reached 78.55% – an average result in Turkish conditions. The results of Türkiye’s local elections could be illustrated by applying them to an administrative map of Türkiye showing its 81 provinces. Meanwhile, it is worth comparing the 2024 results with the geographic distribution of support for political parties in 2019. After the March 2024 elections, 35 administrative units are ruled by CHP mayors (an increase of 14 in comparison to 2019), 24 have AKP mayors (a reduction of 15 in comparison to 2019), 10 have DEM mayors, 8 have MHP mayors, and two remaining for YRP mayors. We can clearly see how the main opposition party (CHP) won elections in central Anatolia, which is considered to be the traditional bastion of the AKP electorate, whose influence in the region has weakened throughout the years. At the same time, Türkiye’s five largest cities – İstanbul, Ankara, İzmir, Adana, and Bursa – are ruled by CHP mayors. In all of the mentioned cities, AKP candidates suffered a painful defeat (for example, İmamoğlu 51.1% vs. 39.6% Kurum in İstanbul, and Yavaş 60.4% vs. 31.7% Altınok in Ankara). The New Welfare Party (YRP) emerged as the second biggest winner of the March local elections as a consequence of attacking President Erdoğan from the right side of the political scene.

Map 1: Election results of March 31, 2024, shown on the background of 81 Turkish provinces


Source:, (02.06.2024).

Map 2: Election results of March 31, 2019, shown on the background of 81 Turkish provinces


Source:, (02.06.2024).

The State of Turkish Democracy Recommends Restraint in Judgments and Forecasts

The most important event of March 31st, besides the publication of the election results, was President Erdoğan’s evening speech, in which he declared that he would respect the will of the voters, highlighting the quality and good condition of Turkish democracy. He also announced an analysis of his party’s electoral defeat. This speech allowed the citizens to hope that the election result would be accepted. However, the fundamental question in this context is whether Turkish democracy truly is in perfect shape. The answer is not apparent.

The Turkish political system could be characterized by an uneven playing field between the government and the opposition, where a system of complex advantages favoring those currently in power (so-called incumbents) can be observed. Such a structure makes it possible to carry out competitive elections, but at the same time, there is no justification for claiming equality or fairness in the polls. Subordination of state institutions to political will, limiting the role of non-governmental organizations, and a pro-governmental narrative in the media are only selected elements of the described phenomenon. Excellent evidence of the subordination of Türkiye’s judiciary system to political will is Ekrem İmamoğlu’s trial, conducted in December 2022, which sentenced him to two years in prison for „insulting officials” of the Supreme Electoral Board in 2019. The verdict is not yet binding and can become valid at any time. As a side note, this is not the only accusation facing İmamoğlu.

Consequently, the most important opposition leader can be easily deprived of office and public rights. Another example of incumbency advantage is the ownership structure of the Turkish media, of which more than 90% are under the direct or indirect influence of President Erdoğan. This results in the creation of a wide range of patron-client arrangements, providing dominance of a pro-governmental narrative on television, radio, and the press. To conclude, the uneven playing field, which favors the aforementioned Justice and Development Party, cannot be changed as a consequence of the outcome of the March 2024 local elections; especially given the extent of Türkiye’s centralization.

However, even if an opposition candidate – particularly one with ties to the Kurdish background – overcomes all systemic obstacles and wins in the elections, they still cannot be certain of taking the seat. In 2019, many mayors elected with the backing of the pro-Kurdish HDP party failed to take office due to the central government’s imposition of commissioners in their place. After the March 2024 local elections also – despite President Erdoğan’s assurances – it quickly became apparent that his respect for the will of the voters did not apply to all regions and all ethnic groups in Türkiye. This became known just two days after the elections, when it became public that in the province of Van in southeastern Türkiye, the acknowledgment of a pro-Kurdish DEM party candidate was denied due to alleged disenfranchisement just before the election. Spontaneous demonstrations started in the city, and the police resorted to the use of pepper spray and water cannons in order to disperse the protesters. In the end, the Supreme Electoral Board reverted its decision to invalidate the mandate of the DEM party candidate – in this case, public pressure succeeded.

From the author’s point of view, the overall condition of Turkish democracy does not allow one to claim, with any conviction, that President Erdoğan’s end is inevitable. Nevertheless, the outcome of the local elections is important for Türkiye’s future and should not be overlooked. The psychological effect is vital: the opposition’s victory has renewed hope for change within large segments of the public. However, it will undoubtedly be a complicated process. The crucial factors in achieving this goal are the opposition’s groundwork and the accumulation of essential resources.

The Opposition’s Future 

Despite the unquestionable victory of the opposition, restraint should be exercised in predicting the downfall of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The Justice and Development Party still has a strong incumbency advantage in the form of a wide range of systemic benefits. At the same time, the unquestionable success of the CHP should not be underestimated. The main opposition party has to make strong foundations in the coming years in order to effectively challenge AKP and President Erdoğan in the future.

What are the CHP’s achievements from local elections? Primarily psychological success, the gain of prestige, and the restoration of hope. Furthermore, CHP gained access to significant funds in Türkiye’s five largest cities, resulting in the ability to shape local public administration staff.

The psychological effect of CHP’s victory is essential. First place in the election score conducted nationwide renewed hope in the opposition, allowing them to raise morale, which was drastically damaged by the outcome of the May 2023 presidential and parliamentary elections. These emotions will not be maintained for four years, but the change of perception is what really matters at the moment. The atmosphere of potential defeat and disappointment could cause an exodus of volunteers and supporters – people who, driven by the hope of victory, are doing the hard work on the local level. That makes it difficult to run an effective campaign. But because the opposition has won, it will challenge President Erdoğan in 2028 with a completely different mindset. On the practical side, governing Türkiye’s five largest cities gives the Republican People’s Party the opportunity to accumulate resources that are crucial to the political struggle in the future. Every authority can shape personal configurations in a subject territory and allocate appropriate budgetary resources. Deciding on the directions of money transfers, CHP could, in effect, try to reduce incumbency advantages that favor the ruling party. Funds properly spent – for example, by investing in local media – could create a break in the pro-government media monolith. In fact, the real strength of each party is built in local government and local administration structures. Governing the city or a province creates many opportunities to build a network of supporters through relevant personnel policies. This is one of the methods of expanding the number of party supporters by drawing them into the orbit of its influence and giving them space to develop skills. That is how the future political elite could be created. It is the local politics in which people mostly begin their political careers and accumulate the resources and experience needed for the general elections. The future of the main opposition party also depends on the ability to maintain discipline within the party and crystallize the political ambitions of individual leaders. It should be highlighted that Ekrem İmamoğlu is not the only one with reasons to celebrate and consolidate his position after the March 2024 elections.

The electoral battle in the capital, Ankara, was won with a much larger margin of victory than İmamoğlu by Mansur Yavaş, who had declared during the campaign that this would be his last term as a city mayor. It is hard to believe that a politician who has won twice in the national capital would easily let go of a potential fight for the country’s presidency or party leadership, especially since opinion polls place him high in the minds of Turks. Also to be observed in this context are the actions of the mayors of İzmir, Adana, and Bursa and their potentially growing political ambitions. An individual who should not be ignored is also the CHP’s formal chairman, Özgür Özel, who may try to turn the party’s most significant success since 1977 into a success for his leadership – especially when the popularity of Özgür Özel is growing. Another critical factor, which is in suspension so far, is the potential legitimization of a prison sentence for Ekrem İmamoğlu. Once again, this could create a convenient argument for contesting his leadership, just as before the May 2023 elections. To conclude this topic, CHP should be aware of some kind of disintegration potentially caused by long leadership struggles if they want to accumulate effective resources for the 2028 elections.

The deconstruction of the Table of Six (opposition alliance before the May 2023 elections) suggests that CHP may again dominate the Turkish political opposition in the coming years. At the same time, it is important to observe further moves of the New Welfare Party (YRP). Many analysts claim that YRP played a crucial role in losing the AKP’s electorate by attacking the government coalition from the right. It is worth mentioning that President Erdoğan has already taken steps to minimize the loss of its voters. For instance, this was the background of the decision to cancel all trade relations with Israel in May 2024. However, it should be remembered that President Erdoğan has been condemned to defeat many times before, but he managed to mobilize his electorate each time.

Meanwhile, it is worth remembering that President Erdoğan will be 74 years old in 2028. No one can predict his well-being in four years, but there are signs that his health is becoming brittle – during the 2023 election campaign, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan fell ill and stopped campaign activities for a while. İmamoğlu’s presidential aspirations were fully revealed in his speech, which took place at the same time as President Erdoğan’s, symbolically challenging the head of state. The coming four years is the time for the opposition to build a solid background that will allow them to challenge the ruling coalition effectively. Four years gives enough time both for the opposition, which could use it for political consolidation, and for the ruling coalition, which might overcome the economic crisis and restore confidence in the leadership of President Erdoğan. The Republican People’s Party has unquestionably been provided with an opportunity to lead a political change. It is primarily up to them how to use it.