The March 30, 2014 local elections epitomized the fiercest battle fought in Turkish political history between the government and an anti-government coalition that included a range of legitimate and illegitimate actors from opposition parties to the furtive agents of a phantom “parallel structure” embedded in vital branches of Turkish bureaucracy. A series of momentous events that unfolded between mid-2013 and the eve of Election Day practically turned the March 30 local elections into general elections, as well as a vote of confidence for the AK Party rule and the leadership of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan. The Gezi Park protests, the military coup in Egypt, the increasing disconnect and erosion of trust between the West and Prime Minister Erdoğan, and the December 17 corruption allegations influenced the psyche of leaders, politicians and constituents on both aisles of the political spectrum to the extent that each waged an existential war against the other. By doing so, as will be elaborated in this paper, they appear to have set the wheels in motion—albeit inadvertently—for the AK Party’s electoral victory and contributed to its metamorphosis into a dominant party, the emergence of a “New Turkey,” and unprecedented polarization on all levels of Turkish society.
The AK Party: Dominant Party, New Turkey and Polarization
One of the fiercest electoral battles fought in the Turkish political history, the March 30, 2014 local elections yielded results akin to an outcome of a general election. The AK Party’s victory in the ballot box has serious implications for Turkish politics and society in general. This paper will thus discuss and explain the implications of the elections for the AK Party’ metamorphosis into a dominant party. The paper will also shed light on how the AK Party’s consolidation of its power has led to the emegence of a “New Turkey.” Last, the article will point to the increased polarization in Turkish society, an externality of the AK Party’s dominant party status and the New Turkey.
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan greets members of the Parliament from his ruling AK Party during a meeting at the Turkish Parliament in Ankara. AA / Mehmet Ali Özcan
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