A surprising number of CHP women managed to win local elections in Turkey. A sign of a feminist resurgence?

A woman celebrates the CHP's election victory in Ankara on the shoulders of another celebrant, showing the victory sign with both hands.

Great joy among CHP supporters in Ankara after election victory Photo: Tunahan Turhan/imago

Happiness danced in the street on the afternoon of March 31 in Istanbul. Cars decorated with the Turkish flag filled the streets, people played flutes and drums, lit flares while Kemalist anthems played, as if Turkey had won the World Cup.

The reason was the preliminary results of the local elections on the same day. For the first time since the AKP was founded in 2001, the opposition CHP performed better. Voter turnout, at just over 78 percent, was lower than in the 2023 parliamentary and presidential elections. In the preceding weeks, many expressed hopelessness on social media and no longer seemed to believe in the power of their vote. The results may have given them some hope.

The women also won on March 31. This time eleven women were elected mayors; Before the elections there were only four. Women also won in 16 smaller communities. The vast majority are female CHP politicians. So representation has increased significantly, although it is still not proportional to demographics. But is this a feminist achievement?

It is a scientific reality that the representation of women in leadership positions has a positive impact on societies. However, these local elections in Turkey were about survival. The economic situation is catastrophic and the AKP talks more and more about Sharia. Many people did not vote for the CHP out of conviction, but so that the AKP would not win.

Having to choose the lesser evil to have hope for the most basic human rights or to be able to afford basic needs like food, clean water, and a roof over your head is not necessarily a victory. This time a vase could have won against the AKP. How the AKP will react to the defeat, whether it will learn a lesson from it or declare war on the people, remains an open question.

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