Turkey Politics


Local elections to test ruling AKP amid ongoing political turbulence

The local elections that are scheduled for 30 March will be a crucial test for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling AKP party in advance of the presidential election scheduled for August in which Erdogan is expected to run. The weak positioning of the opposition parties means that the AKP will surely win the local elections. The key question, however, is how extensively December's graft probe and last summer's antigovernment protests have damaged electoral support for the AKP. According to analysts, Erdogan will run for president if the AKP can secure more than the 39.0% of the national vote that it received in the 2009 local elections and also win in both Ankara and Istanbul. Conversely, a poor outcome could prompt Erdogan to change the party's self-imposed rule that prevents party lawmakers from serving more than three consecutive terms so that he can run for prime minister for a fourth term in the June 2015 general election. On 26 February, a new scandal emerged when audio tapes that were released online put Erdogan at the heart of corruption allegations. Although Erdogan claims that the audio recordings are part of a campaign to bring down his government, analysts have warned that the disclosure could further erode support for the ruling AKP. The release of the tapes are the latest step in a power struggle between Erdogan and the Gulen movement-a moderate Islamist and liberal-leaning movement that is led by Fethullah Gulen. Gulen is an influential Turkish cleric living in the United States who has gained influence within Turkey's police force and the judiciary system over the past decade. Erdogan has accused the Gulen movement of forming a “parallel state” that is plotting to wreck his government. Following the 17 December graft probe, allegedly brought forward by Gulen supporters, Erdogan dismissed hundreds of police officers, judges and prosecutors considered close to the movement. The government also passed legislation that increases its control over the Internet and the appointment of officials in the judiciary system. Deep political turmoil within the country coupled with the U.S. Federal Reserve tapering drove the Turkish lira to an all-time low of 2.33 TRY per USD on 24 January. The lira did recover, however, following the Central Bank's 28 January decision to aggressively tighten its monetary policy. On 7 March, the lira traded at 2.21 per USD, which was 0.6% stronger than the same day of the previous month. On an annual basis, the lira is down 22.7%. FocusEconomics Consensus Forecast panelists expect the lira to trade at 2.22 per USD by the end of this year. For 2015, the panel projects that the lira will trade at 2.22 per USD.

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