A closure case brought against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has altered the plans of political parties for the municipal elections slated for March 2009, with some considering an early start to campaigns in case municipal elections are held simultaneously with early parliamentary elections.
The AK Party is planning to amend the Constitution in order preclude the closure case filed against it last month by the chief public prosecutor and to hold a referendum if other parties do not lend support to these amendments. Concerning the municipal elections, the AK Party is aiming to increase its votes to 60 percent.
AK Party Manisa deputy Hüseyin Tanrıverdi, the head of the party's local organizations, indicated that the AK Party's municipalities have been performing considerably well for the last four years, and thus, he said, their electoral support will be noticeably higher than the 41.67 percent they received in the municipal elections of March 29, 2004. "Our target for the municipal elections of March 2009 is to add new major municipalities to our existing ones. We aim to secure at least 60 percent of the vote," he said. In the municipal elections of 2004, the AK Party had secured 12 of 16 metropolitan municipalities, 46 of 65 provincial municipalities and 468 of 850 district municipalities.
Bekir Bozdağ, deputy chairman of the AK Party's parliamentary group, stated that they would risk a referendum if the constitutional amendments were not backed by other parties. He pointed out that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had said the government is not planning to hold early parliamentary elections. "We have no plans to hold early parliamentary elections. But we do not know what developments might lead us to do so. We have long been preparing for municipal elections," noted Bozdağ.
MHP ready for early elections
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli had stated in last week's meeting of the Central Executive Board (MYK) of his party that if the crisis arising from the closure case against the AK Party cannot be solved through constitutional amendments, the parliamentary elections might be held earlier than scheduled. Bahçeli had added that if no consensus can be reached on the constitutional amendments, the AK Party might opt to hold a referendum on the amendments, saying that this would eventually lead to parliamentary elections being held earlier. He had also instructed the party's senior executives to prepare for such an occurrence. In the general elections of July 22, 2007, the MHP secured 14.6 percent of the vote. The party received 10.1 percent of the vote in the last municipal elections and plans to double this figure.
Depending on the outcome of the regular party congress it will hold this month, the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) will begin an early election campaign. The CHP had secured 18.27 percent of the vote in the municipal elections of 2004, and it will be on the defensive in order not to lose its strongholds to the AK Party in the next elections. The CHP sees the closure case against the AK Party as a decisive factor in the municipal elections and is of the opinion that the municipal elections might be held simultaneously with parliamentary elections depending on the decision of the Constitutional Court.
The same holds true for the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), which will be defending its strongholds in the eastern and southeastern regions against the AK Party. The DTP is expected to hold rallies and meetings before the municipal elections in order to boost its popularity among the local people.
Results of municipal elections of March 29, 2004
Justice and Development Party (AK Party): 41.67 percent
Republican People's Party (CHP): 18.27 percent
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP): 10.10 percent
True Path Party (DYP): 9.95 percent
Social Democratic People's Party (SHP): 5.10 percent
Felicity Party (SP): 3.97 percent
Young Party (GP): 2.58 percent
Motherland Party (ANAVATAN): 2.52 percent
Democratic Left Party (DSP): 2.13 percent
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