“There Türkiye was born secular and will remain so” this is one of slogan marked on Turkish squares after the local elections of March 31, 2024. They saw – after twenty-two years – President Erdoğan's AKP party lose its supremacy in the country. Victory was won – in Ankara, Istanbul and other important cities – by the secular opposition. For Middle Eastern power, this event seems to mark the decline of a government often accused of centralizing power and acting in contradiction with the secular foundations of the Republic. People expressed the desire for change: a demand that comes above all from young people.

A presidency that had a profound impact

The current Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, he has undoubtedly left his mark on the politics of his country, having been Prime Minister from 2003 to 2014 and President from 2014 to the present. His history is linked to that of the AKP – the party he founded in 2001 – which refers to moderate and conservative Islamism. For this reason, he has always tended to favor the return of Islam in politics, despite the secular principles advocated by Mustafa Kemal Atatürkfather of modern Turkey.

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What made the last local elections important was the fact that Erdoğan attached a lot of importance to them., seeing in a possible success of the AKP a “popular mandate” to strengthen its power. Although the Turkish constitution provides for a maximum of two presidential terms, it was amended in 2017 to give full executive powers to the head of state. Therefore, there is no guarantee that it will not be subject to subsequent modifications.

In Türkiye, change begins in big cities

However, despite the AKP's commitment, the local elections of March 31 rewarded the secular opposition in major Turkish cities: mostly Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir. The result most revealing of the state of mind of the country is notably that obtained in Istanbul. – as the nerve center of Turkish industry and economy. Here, secularist Ekrem Imamoglu was reconfirmed as mayor. His party, the CHP – Erdoğan's main opponent – ​​won in most districts of the metropolis.

Imamoglu defined this overstepping “A victory for women, young people, Kurds, Christians, Syrians, Jews and people of all beliefs”referring to the confessional orientation of his adversaries. “The era of the single man in charge is over” he further added, underlining the national importance of such a result – which constitutes an explicit message to the government.

The voice of the Turkish people in the Middle East scenario

Naturally, At debacle Among the conservatives, less ideal factors also contributed: first and foremost the economic. Indeed, at present, inflation in Turkey remains at high levels: many voters, however, expect a faster economic recovery, under the leadership of the current government. It will be interesting to see whether this will also affect, in the future, Turkish foreign policy – ​​often described as “neo-Ottoman”, because it is oriented towards a certain expansionism.

In any case, although in a different context, the events in Turkey are reminiscent of what happened during the last parliamentary elections in Iran. There too – through the opposite choice of abstentionism – emerged the protest of young people and women against the inaction of Islamist policies. Thus, even in a Middle East shaken by numerous tensions, the voice of the people can be heard, using means that are both peaceful and effective.

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