Turkey’s local elections are still two months away, but their integrity seems to be already under a cloud amid claims of legal violations and voter registration manipulation. Opposition politicians warn that tensions over foul play could boil over beyond local administrations and plunge the already polarized country into chaos.
Unlike previous local elections, the significance of the March 31 vote is not only about who controls town halls. Both the opposition and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) see the vote as the first electoral test of the executive presidency system, which took effect after last year’s presidential and parliamentary polls. The municipal elections come amid economic turmoil, which, according to pollsters, is eating into the AKP’s popular support. Some suggest that the AKP’s loss of big cities, especially Istanbul and Ankara, could turn up pressure on the government and spark calls for early general elections.