The Turkish elections to be held in less than two weeks, on March 30, are “local elections” in name only. There is currently such a hardened and ill-tempered political and social polarization in the country that the elections are being attributed the function of a general election — that is, a referendum to decide the fate of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey has not held local elections in such a tense and foul atmosphere since 1946, when the country adopted a multiparty system.
One cannot attribute this tension to a single factor. All the social and cultural contradictions that played contributing roles in the 2013 Gezi phenomenon, which affected the entire country, are now dictating the policies and campaigns of the government and opposition parties. The rage that led to the events surrounding Gezi Park has unexpectedly resurfaced on the eve of the upcoming elections. One example is the March 12 funeral attended by hundreds of thousands of people for Berkin Elvan, a 15-year-old hit in the head by a police-fired gas canister on June 16, 2013, and who remained in a coma for 269 days.