Erdoğan's recent defeat in local elections put a brake on EU membership talks

The ruling party's weak showing in local elections add another obstacle on Turkey's European Union (EU) membership talks since the party is more dependent on its ultranationalist ally, a fellow at the Middle East Forum, Burak Bekdil said on Sunday.

"The March 31 elections, which blended victory with defeat for Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, put a further brake on Turkey’s stalled membership talks with the EU," Bekdil wrote in an analysis for The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) has lost control of five of six biggest cities, including the capital of Ankara and the country's economic hub Istanbul, in a blow to Erdoğan's 16-year rule. Yet, the AKP managed to win 52% of the votes nationwide together with allied Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

Erdoğan and his ruling AKP have to continue anti-Western rhetoric to keep the ultra-nationalist vote on their side and this will hurt any possibility for recovery of stalled membership talks with the EU, according to Bekdil. 

"Erdoğan appearing to be the willing political hostage of Turkey’s Grey Wolves," the columnist said referring to the MHP. 

In a nonbinding vote on March 13, 2019, the European Parliament has called for the suspension of EU accession talks with Turkey, citing violations of human rights and the rule of law. Lawmakers passed the symbolic nonbinding resolution with 370 votes in favour, 109 against, and 143 abstentions.