March 29 municipal elections are day to choose between Turkey’s past and future: Trend News commentator

March 29 municipal elections are day to choose between Turkey’s past and future: Trend News commentator

Rufiz Hafizoglu, Trend Middle East Desk Director

New municipal elections in Turkey will start on March 29. In Turkey, unlike other countries, municipal elections have become battleground of political parties, because outcome of municipal elections is an indicator of party's closeness to the people. For this reason, three major political parties - the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Republican People's Party (CHP) - rival in the municipal elections.

The municipal elections certainly will be different from the previous and will be held in a tenser atmosphere, because whoever's victory in the elections will impact on who will run the country and directly on country's policies.

Coming to power of the current ruling party Justice and Development Party in 2002 and election of this party's candidate in the 2007 presidential elections made opposition parties - former elite - think fundamentally. One of the main reasons for the victory of the ruling Justice and Development Party was justification for people's confidence. Definitely, the party had to take certain steps to get more confidence and show that it attaches importance to human values. Parliamentary discussion of the ban on wearing scarves was one of such steps. Previously, the issue had been addressed only in street rallies. That was a surprise for the opposition.

Although the Parliament voted for removal of the ban on wearing headgears, the Constitutional Court abolished the decision approved by the Parliament and the President. That was a surprise for the AKP, as it was seeking to resolve the headgear issue within the human rights. However, the opposition accused the AKP of Islamism and activities that are contrary to nationhood principles. They demanded to shut down the party. Though the Constitutional Court was expected to make a decision in favor of the opposition, the verdict was not so happy for them. The Constitutional Court banned state treasury financial assistance for the AKP. Many thought that after this decision the AKP would weaken, at least partially. On the contrary, the party further strengthened.

Following Constitutional Court's decision, former MP from the AKP told Trend that the party has two and a half million members and enjoys strong financial support. So, reduction in funds allocated from the state treasury will not affect party's further activities, he added.

The AKP won this struggle. And the most important thing is that the party admitted its political mistakes and got enough time to correct them.
The opposition had to wait for surprises from the new elite. In a very short period, the AKP presented a next big and unexpected surprise to its rivals.

Neither the opposition nor the people could fail to notice the Turkish-Armenian relations founded by President Gul's love for football.
Authorities' desire to normalize relations with Armenia and inflation in Turkey weakened AKP's image and intensified the leading opposition. Even debates between Prime Minister Receb Tayyip Erdogan and opposition leaders to restore the credibility of the previous government did not yield any results.

Acute reaction to Israel's military operations in Gaza and the historic debate between Shimon Peres and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Davos raised AKP's credibility in the country. Davos enslaver Erdogan returned to his homeland as a hero. His speech at the Davos forum pushed rise in AKP's credibility.

No one doubts that the AKP will win the municipal elections to be held on March 29.

After the elections, the AKP will present a regular surprise to the leading opposition.

The point is constitutional changes. After changes to the Constitution, closure of political parties will not be so much easy.

While expressing his attitude towards the issue, Prime Minister Erdogan said in an interview with local media that after the municipal elections the country's constitution will be amended at least partially and closure of political parties will be thus complicated.

All this gives grounds to say that the March 29 municipal elections are very important for the opposition and the authorities. The elections will show the hands to manage the future of Turkey. And it is the people to choose.

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