The role of the Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party) is anticipated to be significant, especially in influencing the outcome in major cities like Istanbul in the context of the upcoming local elections in Turkey. This is attributed to the party’s history of swaying major political races by directing its predominantly Kurdish voter base.
In previous elections, the DEM Party (and its predecessor, the Peoples’ Democratic Party or HDP) has been instrumental in determining election outcomes, particularly in Ankara and Istanbul. In the 2019 local elections, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost control of both cities to the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), partly due to the open-but-implicit support from the HDP.
For the upcoming elections, the DEM Party has announced its intention to field its own candidates, though it has not ruled out potential electoral cooperation in key cities like Ankara and Istanbul. This strategic position re-emphasises the party’s potential as a ‘king-or rather, mayor-maker’ in critical races.
Istanbul, as a city, holds substantial economic significance, contributing significantly to Turkey’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 2021, Istanbul accounted for 30.4% of Turkey’s national GDP, maintaining its position as the province with the highest GDP in the country and making the city critical to Turkey’s overall economic health.
Thus, the decision of DEM Party regarding candidate nominations or support in Istanbul is crucial, given the city’s immense population of nearly 20 million and its significant contribution to the Turkish economy. The party’s choice could have a profound impact on the political landscape of not only Istanbul but also Turkey as a whole.
Following the general elections in May, the DEM Party has been actively engaging in public meetings across Turkey, shaping its policy and strategy for the forthcoming period based on feedback and suggestions. Notably, the party emerged as a leading force in all the provinces where it ranked first or second in Kurdish majority regions.
In a meeting held on 4 December, the DEM Party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) expressed an inclination to nominate candidates in western cities. This stance gained further support in the Party Council (PC) meeting on 16 December, where it was agreed that the final decision on this matter would be made by the CEC and Co-Chairs.
As part of their strategy, the party determined to select candidates for the 31 March 2024 local elections in Kurdish regions through primaries. A similar democratic approach, termed ‘Urban Consensus’, will be employed to decide candidates in both metropolitan and other cities and districts.
Regarding the western cities, the DEM Party’s CEC resolved to field candidates in 27 districts across various cities including Mersin, Adana, Aydın, Antalya, Konya, Kocaeli, Manisa, Çanakkale, Tekirdağ, İzmir and İstanbul. However, the approach for other cities and districts in the west remains undecided.
Among the key deliberations is the potential nomination of candidates in major metropolitan areas. Speaking to Mezopotamya Agency, the party sources indicated ongoing discussions about fielding candidates in cities such as Adana, Mersin, Bursa, İzmir, Ankara, Aydın and Istanbul, though a final decision is yet to be made.
The list of prospective nominees for these metropolitan areas, should the party decide to field candidates, includes notable names. Discussions are ongoing about figures like Ahmet Türk, Filiz Kerestecioğlu, Züleyha Gülüm, Rıdvan Turan, and current members of parliament such as Sırrı Süreyya Önder, Sırrı Sakık, Meral Danış Beştaş, Saruhan Oluç and Ali Bozan.
The party officials emphasised that while these names are under consideration, the final decision on whether to nominate candidates will be publicly announced by the party in due course.