Turkish Local Elections, Airstrikes: Impact on Turkey, Region and the Larger World?
by Seth Ferris on 11 Apr 2024 0 Comment

I needed some fresh mindful thinking on Türkiye a paradigm shift after the recent Turkish local elections, and what they mean, if anything. It is now clear that Türkiye’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suffered an unprecedented defeat that represents more than an election defeat, and a win for the so-called more “progressive” West. This news may be a game changer, for both Turkish domestic politics and its foreign policy.


Is this a true statement, yes or no, and if so, to what degree?


Many will be asking, is this turn of events a good or a bad thing for NATO and the West? It is too early to predict, with all that is happening in the region. Now, the main opposition party in the recent municipal elections is a force for the ruling government to contend with. Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu has secured the status of being the top opponent to the president as he extended his rule over the country’s largest city.


This is a story with many sides, as for sure, it has more to do with than just domestic politics. As Ekrem Imamoglu said, “We have a long way to go, our excitement is high; we are young. We are Turkish youth who are thirsty for justice and have full faith in democracy. And we will never give up!”


The newly re-elected Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu is but the tip of an iceberg which emerged as the main challenger to the reign of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. Imamoglu is described as young and ambitious, a 53-year-old who has already locked horns with Erdogan’s AK Party. He has won not only the election for mayor, but his followers and other opposition parties have carried at least six major Turkish cities, and the capital, Ankara. So this win, or rather defeat for Erdogan’s AK Party, is a major change in public opinion almost on the level of a mandate for change, at a national level.


It is clear that those who voted for him perceive him as an alternative to the current national leadership, including many foreign minions. It is likely this defeat is a direct response to run-away inflation, running at 70 per cent and more, a flip-flopping foreign policy, and Erdogan’s failure to live up to his own rhetoric in supporting Palestinian rights.


Now it is a question of how much outside support Imamoglu has, as he is saying the right things: the promise of reviving “democracy and justice” in Türkiye. His rise signifies a breakthrough for his party – the CHP, which has transcended its traditional base to attract conservative votes. This will be a threat to Erdogan’s AK Party, which has been accused of clamping down on civil liberties.


Immediate Implications


So far, Türkiye has been very clever in not alienating Russia. The parties that won the Municipal elections are mostly all very pro-western – either kowtowing to Europe, or subservient to the US agenda in the region (it should be noted these are not always the same thing).


The new force is likely, if they win parliamentary elections, to cut the throat of the economy by aligning with EU sanctions, as already fiscal and momentary policy are out of hand. Combined with the recent murder of an Iranian commander with about six fellow officers by an Israeli strike on the Iranian embassy consular buildings in Damascus, and their separate deliberate targeting of aid workers in Gaza, what could possibly go wrong next for Türkiye?


Diplomacy is fast becoming outdated in the region, within a 24-hour period there was an Israeli airstrike on an Iranian consulate building in Syria, which killed Gen. Mohamad Reza Zahedi was in charge of Iran’s covert military operations in Syria and Lebanon and is among the senior most Iranian commanders believed to have been killed in recent years.


The next day they killed 7 aid workers, from World Central Kitchen, in a targeted strike in Gaza, the victims including US-Canadian, UK, Polish and Australian citizens. The foreign workers, and their Palestinian driver, in their vehicles were hit despite having coordinated their movements with the Israeli military, and clearly identifying their vehicles, the charity they worked work for has claimed, as reported by the NYT.


World Central Kitchen had recently become an important player in the delivery of aid into Gaza, organizing two shipments of food that arrived in the territory by boat from Cyprus. As a result of this strike, a number of aid shipments intended for Gaza have now been stopped, due to the risk of Israeli attack. There must be some greater motivation for the struggling Israeli leadership in the face of world condemnation over the ongoing genocide in Gaza.


Are they just so irresponsible, or there must be a method in the madness?


But let’s take a step back and try to be pragmatic, at least from the perspectives of Russia and Türkiye:

Türkiye’s economy is pretty reliant on Russia for energy and for tourism and trade. Erdogan knows this, but if the parliament is dominated by his political opponents, it is a fair bet that soon they will do something very stupid. If the regional governments are distancing themselves from the current central leadership, Recep Tayyip Erdogan may himself seek a diversion, looking at the Israeli model for inspiration.


Possible Diversions and GNP don’t mix well!


According to Official Trade Figures, provided by the Turkish MFA, Russia has been one of the most important trade partners of Türkiye. Trade volume between the two states has reached 26,309 billion USD in 2019, with Türkiye’s 3,854 billion USD worth of exports and 22,454 billion USD imports; since then, the Turkish reliance on tourism, energy and trade from Russia has only increased.


So, now Erdogan is faced with hard choices, not only on the political front, as he may have been overconfident of having things under control, however, with runaway inflation, recent memories of how he responded to earthquake relief, and too many corrupt minions among his ranks, can he get things back on track and focus on home affairs?


It’s the AK party’s worst defeat after more than 20 years in power, with the opposition party making major gains in most of the main cities and in conservative areas in the centre of the country. “Unfortunately, nine months after our victory in the May 28 elections, we could not get the result we wanted in the local election test,” Erdogan told in the wake of the vote count, adding in conclusion, “we will correct our mistakes and redress our shortcomings.”


What concerns me most, is that Erdogan may follow his arch enemy, Bibi Netanyahu’s playbook. An expansion of military intervention in Syria against the Kurds, or direct aid to the Palestinians could provoke a major conflict, particularly if Türkiye, which is the only regional military power capable of doing so, goes up against Israel, possibly by trying to break the Zionist imposed blockade of Gaza,


What could be even worse, is if the Turkish opposition comes to power, and, egged on by their foreign masters, becomes confrontational with Russia. This may be exactly what the US and EU want, and the results for Türkiye would be catastrophic.


Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party have little time left, as he is losing his base of support, and hence he should demonstrate political and economic restraint – and start listening to the Turkish people and face domestic and foreign policy issues head-on!


Seth Ferris, investigative journalist and political scientist, expert on Middle Eastern affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”. Courtesy


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