The structure of Turkish local government was radically changed ahead of this election.
Before 2014, a municipality’s borders did not necessarily overlap with the borders of its host province. Often the biggest municipality covered only the province’s central district (coloured teal on the map), which tended to correspond to the main urban area.
For the 2014 election, municipal borders in Turkey’s 30 largest provinces — known as büyükşehir — were enlarged to overlap precisely with the province borders.
This added all other districts in the province (coloured grey on the map) and new demographic to the electoral roll. eople living in smaller towns, villages and rural areas found themselves voting for the main city’s mayor — in addition to their existing local mayor — for the first time.
Turkey’s northwestern province of Balıkesir is vast and diverse, with a shoreline each on the Aegean and Marmara seas, and mountains and forests that push deep into Anatolia. The coastal regions sport a growing industry in tourism, particularly on the Aegean, and these parts follow the national seaside trend of supporting the CHP. Balıkesir’s landlocked town centre is more conservative and presents a different picture.
The town’s mayor, İsmail Ok, is a chemistry teacher who rose through the ranks of provincial educational boards before standing for office as the MHP candidate in 2009. He defeated the AK Party incumbent Sabri Uğur, ending 15 years of rule by centre-right parties and becoming Balıkesir’s first nationalist mayor in living memory. His victory was one of many that made 2009 an MHP success story.
Mr Ok is now running for re-election, but polling suggests he has a fight on his hands. An ORC survey in the town at the beginning of October put the MHP on 30.9% behind 33.1% for the AK Party, who haven’t even announced a candidate yet. It is possible that Sabri Uğur could run again: in a column he wrote for the local press at the beginning of August, he apologised to “anyone hurt or wronged” by his term in office and hinted at seeking his old job back. Even the CHP could be in with a shout here: ORC polled them at 22.5%.
The MHP need to hold on to Balıkesir to demonstrate theirs is a party that commands local support even though the national party risks being elbowed out by AK.
2009 results by district type
Mayor before the election
İsmail Ok (MHP)
Province assembly, 2009
2014 mayoral result
Other 2014 Büyükşehir elections
Adana – Ankara – Antalya – Aydın – Balıkesir – Bursa – Denizli – Diyarbakır – Erzurum – Eskişehir – Gaziantep – Hatay – İstanbul – İzmir – Kahramanmaraş – Kayseri – Kocaeli – Konya – Malatya – Manisa – Mardin – Mersin – Muğla – Ordu – Sakarya – Samsun – Şanlıurfa – Tekirdağ – Trabzon – Van