Turkey sets local elections for March 31

Turkey will hold nationwide elections to choose local representatives for the country’s cities and districts on March 31.

The Supreme Election Board (YSK) published the decision in the Official Gazette on Friday.

Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) and opposition groups will start campaigning for elections as the country enters a period of low or negative economic growth following a currency crisis earlier this year.

Turks will elect more than 20,000 officials, including mayors to city and district councils, including 30 large metropolitan areas.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP won 42.9 percent of the vote and 18 of 30 metropolitan municipalities in the last election on March 30, 2014. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) finished second with 26.3 percent support and six councils.

The 2014 elections, which Erdoğan’s party won in the aftermath of a corruption scandal and nationwide democracy protests, were marred by allegations of fraud and vote-rigging, with the controversy centered on Ankara, where the CHP candidate unsuccessfully demanded a recount after transformers cut off power in the middle of voting. Police dispersed thousands of protesters at the YSK headquarters in Ankara with water cannons and gas.

In 2016, the government ordered the seizure of two dozen municipalities in the mainly-Kurdish southeast of the country, replacing elected mayors for alleged links to Kurdish militants with administrators. Selahattin Demirtaş, the head of the main Kurdish party, has been in jail since late 2016 for alleged support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).