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Erdoğan’s gain as Turkish vote coincides with Ramadan?

Millions of voters in Turkey will head to the polls on March 31 to elect mayors in local elections. These elections are seen as crucial for both the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which has been in power since 2002, and the opposition.

The last time Turkey held local elections, in March 2019, Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost key cities such as Istanbul and Ankara. It will be looking to win them back. At the same time, retaining key cities would help revive Turkey’s opposition after it failed to defeat Erdoğan in the 2023 national and presidential elections.

How will the elections pan out on March 31? Many things have happened since the last local elections, not least the Covid pandemic and the devastating earthquakes that rocked the country in 2023. But one thing is clearly different this time. While the elections in 2019 happened before the holy month of Ramadan, the 2024 elections will happen at the height of Ramadan.

Research from 2022 that I co-authored with my colleague, Diego Gambetta, suggests that Ramadan can drive up the intensity of religious beliefs, bolster the success of religious organizations, and even influence the results of elections.

Erdoğan’s AKP has a strong base of support among people from the conservative tradition of Turkey. This could give the party an extra edge. However, the role Ramadan might play in the elections is intricate.

The Muslim holy month

Ramadan is the holiest month of the Islamic year. It is a time when religious activities as well as charity and community services increase. Muslims abstain from drinking, eating, smoking and sexual intimacy from sunrise to sunset for a whole month.

Ramadan fasting is a physically and mentally demanding