Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already launched his campaign for the November 2019 elections. Although not mentioned much in the news, there are two elections scheduled that year; the first will be the municipal races in March. Using any pretext, Erdogan has started assembling his party’s local leaderships in rallies, all with live TV coverage. As the leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Erdogan is campaigning for both elections, but only talking about the presidential election so far. Why?
The best explanation is found in Erdogan’s own words. On Aug. 20, he was in Istanbul speaking to a large crowd of AKP members. Cheers frequently interrupted his hourlong speech, even though Erdogan was harshly criticizing the audience for their lethargy and arrogance and bluntly talking about replacing them. The crowd was determined to spur on their leader regardless of his anger and resentment. Erdogan passionately emphasized the significance of Istanbul in the elections. He said those who fail to see the city's importance can serve neither it nor the AKP. Several times he stressed that if the AKP loses ground in Istanbul, the party will lose the whole country. Erdogan’s fear was out in the open during this speech — and he has a point.