Beginning with the declaration of the constitution on December 23, 1876, which ushered in the first Meşrutiyet (constitutional period), local and general elections became an indispensable part of society and political life in Turkey. Naturally, the election phenomenon was most intensely experienced in Istanbul, the capital and the center of these developments.

A Provisional Act for the Establishment and Election of General Assembly (Meclis-i Mebusan’ın Suret-i İntihabı ve Tayinine Dair Talimat-ı Muvakkate) took place under a provisional regulation during the first Meşrutiyet; the Parliament functioned for two terms. Under this mandate,

130 members of parliament (MPs) were elected, 80 Muslims and 50 non-Muslims. The constitution stipulated that for every 50,000 men one MP was to be elected and that the election was to be held in two stages. But this mandate was not applied during this period, due to time constraints. Rather, in the 1876 election, MPs were elected by the members of the provincial councils.

Because of their importance, a different regulation—the Proclamation Regarding the Procedure of Election of Members of Parliament from Istanbul and Its Districts for the Annual Sitting of the Assembly (Heyet-i Mebusan’ın Sene-i İçtimaiyesi İçin Dersaadet ve Mülhakatından İntihab Olunacak Mebusların Suret-i İntihabına Dair Beyanname)—was prepared for the election in Istanbul. As set out in the 1876 constitution, which stated that elections held in Istanbul and its vicinity were to be executed in two stages, the election was held according to the electoral districts. For every electoral district, a period of five days for voting was stipulated. People who did not vote lost their right to do so. The municipality of Istanbul was responsible for making sure that the elections were carried out in an orderly fashion. For this reason, the municipality divided the city into 18 electoral districts and provided an election official and clerks for each. The region of Istanbul was divided into two electoral districts; 40 individuals were to be elected as constituents, two coming from each of the 20 electoral districts.

In 1877, it was ruled that 10 MPs were to be elected from Istanbul; five of these were to be Muslims and five non-Muslims. Primary voters, selected on February 18, 1877, gathered in Istanbul and voted for MPs. The chosen MPs were Ahmed Vefik Pasha, Ahmed Hilmi Efendi (from Üsküdar), Hasan Fehmi Efendi, Hacı Ahmed Efendi (a tobacco merchant), Hacı Ahmed Efendi (steward of the tailors), Sebuh Maksudyan Efendi, Ohannes Efendi (hüdaverdizade), Nikolaki Sulidi Efendi, Vasilaki Seragiyoti Bey, and Avram Aciman Efendi (a money lender).

As the result of this city-wide election, 115 MPs, 69 of whom were Muslim, arrived in Istanbul. Opened on March 19, 1877, with a magnificent ceremony at Dolmabahçe Palace, the first Meclis-i Mebusan (Parliament) met in the Darülfünun building in Sultanahmet. The Meclis-i Mebusan remained active until June 28, 1877.

The second election during the Meşrutiyet was governed by the same regulations; the MPs were again elected by members of the provincial councils. Sultan Abdulhamid II also approved this decision. In this election, held in November 1877, the Istanbul MPs were able to retain their seats.

The Meclis-i Mebusan held 29 meetings during its second term, which lasted from December 13, 1877, to February 14, 1878. There were 106 MPs, 59 Muslims and 47 non-Muslims, in this term.

During this term, the MPs debated government policies and the management of the Russian War; when the war ended in disaster, legislation became of secondary importance. The MPs indirectly held Sultan Abdulhamid II responsible for the course of the war. Members of the government also received their share of criticism. Christian MPs, influenced by Europe, took care of the interests of their own communities. On February 14, 1877, the sultan used the right given to him by the constitution and dissolved parliament.1

1- The opening of the Parliament (Meclis-i Mebusan) on March 19, 1877 (<em>L’Illustration</em>)

The first Meşrutiyet lasted for only one year, one month, and 21 days. The parliament was in session for 10 months and 25 days.


Between 1878 and 1908, when the Kanun-i Esasi (the 1876 Constitution) remained in force, there was great internal strife, particularly resistance to the administration of Abdulhamid II. The Second Meşrutiyet was officially declared on July 23, 1908. With this declaration, as with the French Revolution, the principles of liberty, justice, equality, and fraternity gained popularity.

The first multi-party election in the history of Turkish democracy (and of the Ottoman Empire) was held in November and December 1908; this was the first election of the Second Meşrutiyet. The two parties involved in the election were the İttihat ve Terakki Fırkası (Committee of Union and Progress—CUP) and the Ahrar Fırkası (Liberty Party). The organization of the Liberty Party had not been completed by the time the election was held, and it was no surprise that the CUP candidates won a landslide victory, taking 280 seats out of 281.

A special clause was prepared for the election, as with the 1877 election, which treated the Istanbul municipality as the center of the province, each local municipality as a division, and the localities within these municipalities as election offices. Other procedures followed those applied in the sanjak districts.

2- The opening of the Chamber of Deputies (Meclis-i Mebusan) during the second constitutionalism period (December 17, 1908) Sultan Abdülhamid II standing in the middle lodge.

The island of Adakale, situated on the Danube in isolation outside of the country, was included in the Istanbul election and elected one primary voter. Voting was conducted in Adakale, as traveling to Istanbul would have been costly for island residents.2

Throughout the Ottoman realm, the election of December 11, 1908, was accompanied by festivities and celebrations. The night before the election, drums were played in Turkish neighborhoods, and in the morning, ballot boxes were carried on the shoulders of convoys to the polling places.

According to the statement of the heyet-i teftişiye (inspection committee), the total male population in Istanbul was 385,039; this consisted of 268,458 Muslims, 75,776 Greeks, 29,042 Armenians, 10,649 Jews, 792 Catholics, and 277 Assyrians. When 37,500 men from Şile, Gebze, and Kartal and 55,000 soldiers who were in the city were added to this number, it was announced that Istanbul should have 10 seats in parliament. Of the 512 constituents, 507 attended the election of December 11 to elect the representatives.3 The importance of this election was reflected in the high voter turnout. The ballot box was protected by soldiers from the marksman battalion during and after the election. After all the votes had been cast, the vice dersiam (public teacher), Halis Efendi, led prayers. The ballot box was covered with red and green flags. It was then taken to the municipality building, accompanied by a band and followed by the “ballot box cortege”; speeches were delivered on its arrival.

3- Reading the Sultan’s speech by Said Halim Paşa in the opening of the Chamber of Deputies (Meclis-i Mebusan) at the second constitutionalism period (<em>Resimli Kitap</em>)

The Greek constituency was ambivalent about the Istanbul election; they initially announced that they would not participate but later rescinded this announcement. The Greek community, supported by the government of Greece and the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople, attempted to increase the number of its constituents by inflating the number of voters. In order to conceal their foiled plan, the Greek community protested via the patriarch to the Sublime Porte, while 20,000 Greeks went to the Sublime Porte and to Beyoğlu to protest. The main demand of the Greeks (Ortodox) was that birth records should not be checked for the election; they were aware that if the birth records were checked, their co-religionists, who were not citizens of the Ottoman state, would not be able to vote. The Greek press, claiming that there were 6,500,000 Greeks living in the Ottoman State, demanded that the number of Greek senators (nominated to the Ayan Senate by the Sultan) and MPs (elected by popular vote to the parliament) be set according to this number. However, the Greek population of the Ottoman state never reached 6,500,000. In 1907, the population was as follows: 15,508,753 Muslims, 2,852,812 Greeks, 1,120,748 Armenians, 253,435 Jews, 761,530 Bulgarians, 197,760 foreigners, and 189,592 members of other ethnic and religious groups, making a total population of 20,884,630. While the Greek Patriarch Yuvakim requested that his constituents maintain their original privileges in religion and education, the response of the İttihat ve Terraki was that they had no intention of fulfilling this request.

At this point, the Greek churches in Istanbul made their displeasure clear by ringing the church bells; the Greeks closed their shops and turned out in the streets in protest. The protests had an influence, and in Beyoğlu, acts of violence occurred. In response, the Ministry of the Police took precautions; however, these proved insufficient. On 23 November, the Greeks intensified their protests and more violence occurred; the protesters were dispersed with the use of force. The protesters demanded that the Beyoğlu election be postponed for eight days. The Tanin newspaper, which published articles about the Greeks, was viewed by this sector of society as the enemy.

4a- The front side of the medallion of constitution (Istanbul Archeology Museum)

4b- The back side of the medallion of constitution (Istanbul Archeology  Museum)

The Armenians were not far behind the Greeks. Two Armenian candidates, Hallaçyan Efendi and Kirkor Zohrap, had been elected to parliament. On September 9, 1909, in the government of Hüseyin Hilmi Pasha, Hallaçyan Efendi was appointed Minister of Commerce and Public Works; he resigned from this position on February 18, 1911, during the government of İbrahim Hakkı Pasha. He also served as head of the Public Works Committee in the Meclis-i Mebusan and was elected to parliament in the second and third terms. On December 11, 1908, Zohrap Efendi, an attorney, was elected as MP for Istanbul with 392 votes. He served as the head of the Treasury Laws Committee.

The CUP won all the seats in the Istanbul election. The MPs who were elected were Manyasizade Refik Bey, Mustafa Asım Efendi, Ahmed Rıza Bey, Feraci Efendi, Hallacyan Efendi, Ahmed Nesimi Bey, Kirkor Zohrap Efendi, Kostantnidi Efendi, Hüseyin Cahid Bey, and Kozmidi Efendi. Unlike the 1877 election, the 1908 election did not specify quotas for Muslim and non-Muslim MPs, but each community still won five seats. In Istanbul, candidates from Ahrar Fırkası, candidates with administrative experience, and independent candidates were unable to win a seat. Candidates like Grand Vizier Kâmil Pasha and Minister of Internal Affairs Hilmi Pasha were not elected.

5- The students and graduates of the school of civil service who came to watch the openingof the Chamber of Deputies (Meclis-i Mebusan)

Only constituents were able to vote in by-elections that were held to fill vacant seats. Between 1908 and 1912, 43 elections were held to fill 44 vacant seats in parliament. The most interesting and crucial of these elections were the Istanbul by-elections.

The first serious political struggle between the CUP and the Hürriyet ve İtilaf Fırkası (Freedom and Accord Party—FAP) occurred in the Istanbul by-election held in December 1911. This by-election was similar to the by-election of 1909. In 1909, after the death of the Istanbul MP Manyasizade Refik Bey, the question of holding an Istanbul by-election came onto the agenda. The race was between the CUP and the Ahrar Fırkası; the candidate for the CUP was Minister of Foreign Affairs Rıfat Pasha. The Ahrar Fırkası declared Ali Kemal Bey, the editor of the newspaper İkdam, to be their candidate and claimed that the minister of foreign affairs could not serve in parliament due to his heavy work schedule. Despite these claims, Rıfat Pasha won the election held on April 5, receiving 281 votes to Ali Kemal Bey’s 129.

Rıfat Pasha was appointed ambassador to France in 1911, making a new by-election necessary. At a rally on November 25, 1911, the FAP declared Tahir Hayreddin Bey, the editor of the Şehrah newspaper, to be their candidate in this election. The CUP candidate was Justice Minister Mehmed Memduh Bey. The FAP placed special importance on this election in order to demonstrate their power. The election, held on December 11, 1911, was won by the FAP, only 20 days after this party had been established, with a very narrow margin: 196 votes to 195. This victory was received by the FAP with great enthusiasm, and was a “wake-up call” for the CUP. Tahir Hayreddin Bey thanked the voters in newspaper advertisements, and stated that he planned to act in a manner worthy of the post to which he had been elected.

6- Elections and election inspections in the yard of Mekteb-i Sultani (former name of Galatasaray High School) (<em>Resimli Kitap</em>)

The 1912 election, the first early general election in the democratic process, went down in history as the “bludgeon election” after the FAP candidate was physically beaten while campaigning in Büyükada.

The CUP won 284 seats—that is, all but 6 seats. Although the CUP was in power, it was under pressure from extra-parliamentary forces and was unable to dominate parliament. The Halaskâr Zabitan Group, an extra-parliamentary military force, was triumphant in removing the CUP from government. On August 4, 1912, the parliament was abolished, in a series of events similar to those of 1908.

There were 471 constituents in the 1912 election. Of these, 14 constituents did not vote in the election. Ahmed Nesimi Bey, Artas Efendi, Memduh Bey, Vasilaki Efendi, Feraci Efendi, Bedros Hallaçyan, Hüseyin Cahid Bey, Haşim Bey, Hacı Şefik Bey, and Zohrap Efendi were elected as MPs from Istanbul. The Muslim/non-Muslim ratio was again preserved at five to five. Thus, the CUP administration demonstrated that they endeavored to maintain good relations with the non-Muslims when they came to power.

Other candidates—Osman Bey, Lütfi Fikri, Mustafa Sabri, Kozmidi Efendi, Hulusi Bey, Vasilaki Efendi, Dağavaryan Efendi, Tahir Hayreddin Bey, Hüseyin Hüsnü Bey, Konstantin Efendi, Rıza Tevfik Bey, Ahmed Cevdet Bey, Muratyan Efendi, Mustafa Bey, Grand Vizier Said Pasha, Kâmil Pasha, Şerbetçiyan Efendi, Ahmed Ağaoğlu, Ahmed Midhat Bey, Reşid Bey, Kasbaryan Efendi, and Katibyan Efendi—did not receive sufficient votes to win a seat.

The longest-lasting parliament of the Second Meşrutiyet was the parliament that commenced on May 14, 1914; it held 310 sessions between then and December 21, 1918. This parliament was also abolished before its term was completed, like the parliaments of 1908 and 1912.

The next election in Istanbul was held on February 28, 1914; Hacı Şefik, Bedros Hallaçyan, Ahmed Nesimi, Urfanidis, Emanuel Karasu, İsmet, Hüseyin Cahid, Dr. Haralambos, Salah (Cimcoz), and Kirkor Zohrap were elected to parliament.4 The CUP administration remained neutral toward citizens of Greek and Bulgarian origin in the Ottoman state who voluntarily joined the Greek and Bulgarian armies to fight in the Balkan wars, and preferred not to disturb the ratio of representatives.

7- The transfer of Beyoğlu ballot boxes through Cadde-i Kebir (<em>Resimli Kitap</em>)

Election of 1919 and the Last Ottoman Parliament

The election that determined the members of the last Otto-man parliament, which passed the Misak-ı Millî (National Pact), was held in December 1919. The developments that paved the way for the election of 1919 were accelerated when the Millî Mücadele (National Resistance) found its leader. The Millî Mücadele, led by Mustafa Kemal Pasha, was based on the people and recognized national sovereignty as the ultimate power. The most important step to the election was the Amasya Protocol, an agreement made with the Ottoman Istanbul government.

While Damad Ferid Pasha and the FAP protested against the election of the final Ottoman parliament, the Müdafaa-i Hukuk group (a country-wide resistance organization) supported it and accelerated their campaigns. The Armenians and Greeks did not participate in the election; indeed, their objective was to separate to form their own nations.

The election in Istanbul for the most part was held on December 18, continuing into the month of January. As a result of this election, Ahmet Ferid (Tek) Bey, Adnan (Adıvar) Bey, Ahmed Muhtar Bey, Numan Usta Bey, Selahattin Bey, Fuad Selim Bey, Hamid Bey, Rauf Ahmed Bey, Reşad Hikmet Bey, Kâmil, and Mişon Venture efendis were elected.

The last Ottoman parliament was formed after this election, and its first meeting was held on January 12, 1920. On January 22, the parliament discussed the National Pact in a closed session; the National Pact was then passed during an open session on 28 January and promulgated on February 17, 1920. However, the publication of this decision prepared the way for the end of the parliament. Istanbul was invaded on March 16 of the same year. As a result, on March 18 the Meclis-i Mebusan decided to suspend itself until “circumstances [were] more in keeping with the carrying out of representative duties. After this decision was taken, the parliament was abolished on April 11, 1920, by the sultan; it was never convened in Istanbul again.

8- Sultan Mehmed V (Mehmed Reşad) arrival to the Parliament for its opening (<em>Resimli Kitap</em>)


The invasion of Istanbul confirmed Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s contention that the parliament should convene somewhere other than Istanbul. Three days after the invasion of Istanbul, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk sent a memorandum to the governors’ offices, the independent provinces, and the generals of the army corps, signing it as President of the Representative Committee. In this memorandum, he announced that a legislature with “extraordinary powers” would be convened in Ankara, and to this end an election should be held in 15 days.

In accordance with this memorandum, the Istanbul MPs Ahmet Ferit (Tek) Bey, Ahmet Muhtar Bey, Dr. Adnan Adıvar, Selahattin Bey, and Numan Usta came to Ankara. In the new election, Ahmed Mazhar (Akifoğlu) Bey, Hüseyin Hüsnü (Işık) Efendi, and Neşet (Özercan) Bey were elected and took their place in the Turkish Grand National Assembly. During this period, Ahmet Şükrü (Oğuz) Bey, Ali Fethi (Okyar) Bey, Ali Rıza Bey, and Hacı Arif Bey were elected in by-elections and came to Ankara.

The First Assembly of the Turkish Grand National Assembly convened on April 23, 1920, in Ankara, after the Friday prayers at the Hacı Bayram Mosque and special prayers in the CUP building. The First Assembly, which attained success for the Turkish national struggle for independence thanks to the efforts that began on April 23, 1920, after making some changes to the election law on April 15, 1923, adjourned until after the election of April 16, 1923.

9- Ali Haydar (Yuluğ) Bey who worked as the mayor of Istanbul between April 15, 1923 and June 8, 1924 (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality)

Every province was considered an electoral district in the 1923 election. Elections were held in 72 provinces, and 287 MPs were elected. Except for the independent candidate from Gümüşhane, the first group of MPs was elected. The New Assembly held its first meeting on August 11, 1923. Remaining active until September 1927, this assembly signed the Treaty of Lausanne, proclaimed the Republic of Turkey, abolished the Caliphate, and ratified the 1924 Constitution.

10- Mehmed Emin (Erkul) Bey who worked as the mayor of Istanbul between June 8, 1924 and October 12, 1928 (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality)

In a parliamentary election held in Istanbul on June 28, 1923, Adnan Adıvar, Ahmed Muhtar Bey, Ali Fethi Okyar, and Ali Rıza Bey, all of whom had served as MPs in the first term of the Assembly, were re-elected. The other MPs from Istanbul were Abdurrahman Şeref Efendi, Yusuf Akçura, İbrahim Refet Bele, İsmail Hakkı Canbolat, marshall Mustafa Fevzi Çakmak, Ahmet Hamdi Denizmen, Kâzım Karabekir, Hüseyin Rauf Orbay, İbrahim Refik Saydam, Süleyman Sırrı, and Hamdullah Suphi Tanrıöver.

From 1923 to 1927, eight by-elections were held in Istanbul, to replace Abdurrahman Şeref Efendi and Süleyman Sırrı, who died in office; İsmail Hakkı Canbolat, who was executed in connection with the İzmir assassination; Hüseyin Rauf Orbay, who was found guilty of the same assassination and suspended as MP; and Adnan Adıvar, İbrahim Refet Bele, marshall Mustafa Fevzi Çakmak, and Ali Fethi Okyar, who resigned due to health issues or a change in assignment. On October 12, 1925, Edip Servet Tör and Tevfik Kâmil Koperler were elected; on December 31, 1925, Behiç Erkin was elected; on March 15, 1926, İhsan Latif Sökmen was elected. On December 13, 1926, four MPs were elected: Ali Haydar Yuluğ, Ziya Karamursal, Hakkı Şinasi Erel, and Ali Fuat Ağralı. Ziya Karamursal remained an MP until 1946. Another Istanbul MP, Ahmet Hamdi Denizmen, served in parliament from 1923 until 1946. Several MPs from Istanbul, including Kâzım Karabekir, Refet Bele, İsmail Canbolat, Rauf Orbay, and Adnan Adıvar, established the first opposition party in the history of the Turkish Republic, the Terakkiperver Cumhuriyet Fırkası (Progressive Republican Party).

Ziya Karamursal, Ahmet Hamdi Denizmen, İbrahim Refik Saydam, Tevfik Kâmil Koperler, İhsan Latif Sökmen, Edip Servet Tör, Ali Haydar Yuluğ, Ali Fuat Ağralı, Yusuf Akçura, Hakkı Şinasi Erel, Behiç Erkin, and Hamdullah Suphi Tanrıöver all represented Istanbul again in the third term of the Assembly.

11- Ballot boxes in Istanbul and the act of casting votes (October 13, 1930) (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, Kültür A.Ş.) A

11- Ballot boxes in Istanbul and the act of casting votes (October 13, 1930) (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, Kültür A.Ş.) B

Single-Party Period

Starting with the 1927 election, the single-party period began and, with a number of different regulations, continued until 1946. According to the 1924 Constitution, the term of the Assembly was increased to four years. In the single-party period, there were regulations such as the establishment of a quota for independent (non-party-affiliated) candidates in the 1931 election, and the formation of an “autonomous group” for the Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (Republican People’s Party—CHP) in the 1939 parliament.

The 1927 election was held in accordance with Election Law No. 320, dated April 3, 1923; the CHP participated in the election. The candidates won the election, which was held in two stages, despite the fact that in some regions independent candidates participated in the election.

On September 2, an election was held in the main hall at Istanbul University. Of the 1,461 electors in Istanbul, 1,458 voted and chose 16 MPs. The names of Nureddin Ali Berkol, Süreyya İlmen, Hüseyin Hüsnü Kavalalı, and Ahmet Rasim (Arık) appeared for the first time. Likewise, Abdülhak Hamid Tarhan served in the parliament for the first time, as the result of a by-election; he filled the seat of Behiç Erkin, who had been appointed to the Peşt Embassy.

All of the MPs who represented Istanbul in the parliament (except Abdülhak Hamid Tarhan) were mandated on September 5, 1927. In the third term of the Grand Assembly, Ziya Karamursal, Ahmet Hamdi Denizmen, İbrahim Refik Saydam, Tevfik Kâmil Koperler, İhsan Latif Sökmen, Edip Servet Tör, Ali Haydar Yuluğ, Ali Fuat Ağralı, Yusuf Akçura, Hakkı Şinasi Erel, Behiç Erkin, and Hamdullah Suphi Tanrıöver again represented Istanbul.

CHP MPs Süreyya İlmen and Ali Haydar Yuluğ established the Serbest Cumhuriyet Fırkası (Liberal Republican Party) in 1930, but after three months of activity it disbanded itself. Shortly thereafter, Atatürk undertook an extensive countrywide trip, traveling to places like Kayseri, Trabzon, Istanbul, İzmir, Aydın, Antalya, Mersin, Konya, and Afyon, during which he made observations and exchanged opinions with the people he encountered. Following this trip, Atatürk established a different method for the 1931 election: rather than seats being restricted to party members, independent MPs were allowed to sit in parliament. The CHP nominated 287 candidates in 63 electoral districts, leaving 30 seats in 22 provinces, including four of Istanbul’s 16 seats, to be contested by independent candidates. However, it was requested that these candidates be secular, republican, and nationalist.

At the time of the 1931 election, the male population of Istanbul was 312,160. With the title of Chairman of the CHF (CHP), Mustafa Kemal Atatürk announced the list of MPs, which included the following: Abdülhak Hamid Bey, Akçuraoğlu Yusuf Bey, Ahmed Rasim Bey (minister of health), Dr. Refik Bey, Hamdi Bey (former Samsun MP), Ali Rana Bey, Salah Cimcoz Bey (member of the CHF Provincial Commission), Halil Bey (former director of museums), Hasan Vasfi Bey (weaving engineer), Hamdi Bey (foreman’s aide at the Yedikule Tobacco Factory), Yaşar Bey (fitter at the Seyrisefain Factory), and Hayrullah Bey (shoemaker from Okçular, Beyazıt). Now the parliament included not only important people from the sciences, arts, and politics, but also artisans, thus making clear the populism that was included in the party regulations at the 1931 congress.

12- Ballot boxes from Kumkapı district being transferred to Eminönü governorship in order to be opened (April 13, 1931) (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, Kültür A.Ş.)

As mentioned above, four Istanbul seats remained for independent candidates. A total of 54 people, including Kâzım Karabekir, Refet Bele, Ali Galip, Cemil (Topuzlu) Pasha (former mayor of Istanbul), Feridun Fikri (former Dersim MP), and Galip Kemali (former ambassador to Moscow), ran for these four seats.

As a result of the election held on April 24, 1931, the people who had been nominated as candidates for Istanbul were elected as MPs. Abdülhak Hamid Tarhan, Yusuf Akçura, Ahmed Rasim Bey, Dr. Refik Saydam, Ahmet Hamdi Denizmen, Ali Rana Tarhan, Salah Cimcoz, Halil Edhem Eldem, Hasan Vasfi Dokuman, Hamdi Gürsoy, Mehmet Yaşar Yazıcı, and Hasan Hayrullah Ergin were elected. Even though four seats were left for independent candidates, none of the independent candidates won. Ziya Karamursal and Saadeddin Rıza Bey (Mustafa Saadettin Uraz) were proposed to fill those seats. With the death of Ahmet Rasim Bey on September 22, 1932, İbrahim Tali Gören was elected to take his seat. However, upon his appointment as general inspector of Thrace, Ali Sadeddin Barlas took this seat, being elected on June 2, 1934. After a by-election, İbrahim Alaaddin Topçubaşıoğlu and Mehmet Midhat Dağdemir became Istanbul MPs.

The parliament that was elected in 1931 remained active from May 4, 1931, to December 23, 1934.

The 1935 election was the first in which women had the right to vote and run for office. As with the 1931 election, the application of independent candidates continued. Another characteristic of the 1935 election was that elected MPs could be from minority groups.

Before the election, which was held on February 8, 1935, Atatürk declared the CHP nominees on February 5. The Istanbul nominees were Abdülhak Hamid Tarhan, Ahmet Hamdi Denizmen, Ali Barlas, Ali Rana Tarhan, Dr. Refik Saydam, Şükrü Naili Gökberk, Halil Edhem Eldem, Hamdi Gürsoy, Hayrullah Ergin, Saadeddin Rıza Bey (Mustafa Sadettin Uraz), Salah Cimcoz, Mehmet Yaşar Yazıcı, Ziya Karamursal, Yusuf Akçura, and Fakihe Öymen, a female candidate; one seat was left empty. A history teacher at Bursa Kız Öğretmen Okulu (Bursa Girl’s Teachers’ School), Fakihe Öymen retained her seat in the 1939 and 1943 parliaments.

Two by-elections were held in Istanbul during the fifth term of the parliament. On January 25, 1937, the deceased MPs Şükrü Gökberk and Abdülhak Hamid Tarhan were replaced with Mustafa Atıf Bayındır and Şükrü Ali Ögel; and on January 6, 1939, after the death of Halil Ethem Eldem, Kâzım Karabekir became an MP for Istanbul and Fakihe Öymen Şükrü Ali Ögel, Neşet Ömer İrdelp, and Mustafa Atıf Bayındır were elected as MPs for the first time.

As in the 1931 election, the implementation for independent candidates continued in this election; however, the quota was decreased from 30 to 16 seats. Istanbul was one of the cities that had a seat for an independent candidate. However, when the CHP won seats in three of the cities that had been designated for independent candidates, the number of independents decreased to 13. The retired general Refet Bele, an independent candidate running in Istanbul, was elected with only 290 votes from 1,325 constituents.

After the 1935 election, which was held in 57 electoral districts, the Turkish Grand National Assembly (Parliament) was opened with the participation of 399 MPs; this was the longest legislative session in the single-party period, lasting from March 1, 1935, to January 27, 1939.

After Atatürk

The first election after the Atatürk era was held on March 26, 1939, in 62 cities. An interesting innovation, the “autonomous group,” was introduced by the CHP administration and was made up of CHP MPs. The CHP won 420 seats, and independent candidates took four seats.

Of 1,570 constituents, 89.3% participated in the Istanbul election. The CHP nominated Refik Saydam (prime minister), Ali Rana Tarhan, Kâzım Karabekir, Refet Bele, Salah Cimcoz, H. Şinasi Erel, Ahmet Hamdi Denizmen, Atıf Bayındır, Sadettin Uraz, Şükrü Ali Ögel, Ziya Karamursal, Fakihe Öymen, Ali Kamil Akyüz, Abidin Daver, Galip Bahtiyar Göker, Ahmet Şükrü Esmer, and İbrahim Alaaddin Gövsa. Nominated to represent Istanbul, all 17 of these candidates were elected. By-elections were held after the deaths of Hakkı Şinasi Erel (November 12, 1942) and Dr. Refik Saydam (August 3, 1943); İsmail Hakkı Ülkmen and Numan Menemencioğlu were elected.

Ahmet Şükrü Esmer (Istanbul MP), Ziya Karamursal, who had parliamentary privileges, and Ali Rana Tarhan were included in the autonomous group that was formed by MPs from the CHP.

The Assembly, with 424 MPs, was in session from April 3, 1939, to January 15, 1943. With the addition of Hatay to Turkey, five MPs representing Hatay were added to the parliament, which increased the number of MPs to 429.

In the 1943 election, 455 MPs were elected to parliament. There were more nominees than seats in the election, which was held in 38 cities on February 28, thus giving constituents a choice of candidates.

In Istanbul, 31 candidates competed for 23 seats. The following individuals were elected to parliament: Ali Rana Tarhan, Kâzım Karabekir, Refet Bele, Salah Cimcoz, Ahmet Hamdi Denizmen, Atıf Bayındır, Şükrü Ali Ögel, Ziya Karamursal, Fakihe Öymen, Ali Kami Akyüz, Galip Bahtiyar Göker, Ahmet Şükrü Esmer, İbrahim Alaettin Gövsa, Numan Menemencioğlu, İsmail Hakkı Ülkmen, Yahya Kemal Beyatlı, Ferit Hamal, Vehbi Sarıdal, Kemal Cenap Berksoy, Hayrullah Diker, Mehmet Mekki Gelenbeğ, Niyazi İsmet Gözcü, Hüsnü Kortel, Celal Esat Arseven, Galip Ataç, Muhittin Üstündağ, H. Cahid Yalçın, and Mehmet Emin Yurdakul. Ali Kamil Akyüz and Galip Bahtiyar Göker died while in office, and Hüsnü Kortel resigned. There was a blend of prominent figures from the military, politics, and academia among the nominees.

Kemal Cenap Berksoy, Mehmet Mekki Gelenbeğ, Niyazi İsmet Gözcü, and Muhittin Üstündağ were elected in the by-elections. Vehbi Sarıdal and Ali Rana Tarhan were part of the autonomous group formed by the CHP.

This parliament remained active from March 8, 1943, to June 14, 1946.

Multi-party Elections

The 1946 election led to the adoption of the multi-party system in the Republic of Turkey. Although a number of political parties were established during this process, only two of them lasted: the Millî Kalkınma Partisi (National Development Party), which was established under the leadership of Nuri Demirağ on July 18, 1945, and the Demokrat Parti (Democratic Party), headed by Celal Bayar, who founded the party with Adnan Menderes, Fuat Köprülü, and Refik Koraltan.

The election held on July 21, 1946, was the first single-stage election since the collapse of the Ottoman state. The Election Law had been changed before the 1946 election; Law No. 4918, signed on June 5, 1946, allowed the transition to single-stage elections to be completed under a list-based majority system.5 The minimum age to vote or to stand for office remained the same. The election system was based on an open ballot and secret tallying.

The 1946 election was contested by DP and CHP candidates; the DP nominated 273 people for 465 seats. The CHP won 390 seats, the DP 65, and independent candidates seven.

CHP had a landslide win in Istanbul; this margin was reflected in by-elections as well. The results for other parties were not so impressive. Independent candidates Adnan Adıvar, Cihat Baban, and marshall Fevzi Çakmak were elected. M. Celal Bayar, Fuat Köprülü, Salamon Adato, Enis Akaygen, Münip Berkan, Faruk Nafiz Çamlıbel, Fuat Hulusi Demirelli, Vasil Konos, Osman Nuri Köni, Burhan Cahit Morkaya, Ahmet Kemal Silivrili, Zeki Rıza Sporel, and Senihi Yürüten were the winning DP candidates. Also, marshall Fevzi Çakmak was elected as an independent candidate for the DP. The DP Istanbul candidates included founders of the party and candidates who were active in the party leadership. Non-Muslim candidates were put forward for Istanbul as a reflection of its cosmopolitan structure.

The Istanbul MPs elected from the CHP were Refet Bele, Kâzım Karabekir, Recep Peker, Hamdullah Suphi Tanrıöver (who later became an independent), Hüseyin Cahit Yalçın, Mekki Hikmet Gelenbeğ, and Cemil Cahit Toydemir. These elected MPs had played important military roles in the National Struggle.

The appointment of the DP candidate Burhan Cahit Morkaya as an MP was rejected by the parliament, and Vasil Konos (another DP candidate) resigned before taking office. The MPs Kâzım Karabekir (CHP), who was the president of the assembly, Akil Muhtar Özden (CHP), and Münip Berkan (DP) all died during the term.

By-elections were held on April 6, 1947, and October 17, 1948. The DP did not participate in these by-elections, which were also held in Istanbul, to protest shortcomings in the election system. In the by-elections, Ekrem Amaç, Ali Rıza Arı, Sadi Bekter, Nikola Fakaçelli, Atıf Ödül, Mim Kemal Öke, and Akil Muhtar Özden (all CHP candidates) were elected.6

The election of May 14, 1950, has a special importance in the history of Turkish democracy. This election, which ended CHP’s 27-year rule, is referred to by some people as the “white revolution.” It was held in compliance with the MP Election Law No. 5545, dated February 16, 1950. This was the first election law that allowed free and democratic elections. It mandated single-stage elections and a list-based majority system. In this election, which had a voter turnout rate of 90%, the DP won 408 seats (53.59%); 69 MPs from the CHP were elected, one from the Millet Partisi (National Party), and nine independent MPs.

The DP won the election in Istanbul, thus taking all the seats. Adnan Menderes, Fuat Köprülü, Enver Adakan, Salamon Adato, İhsan Altınel, Ahmet Hamdi Başar (who later became an independent MP), Andre Vahram Bayar, Nihat Reşat Belger, Midhat Benker, Faruk Nafiz Çamlıbel, Fuat Hulusi Demirelli, Bedri Nedim Göknil, Salih Fuad Keçeci, Ahilya Moshos, Mükerrem Sarol, Fahrettin Sayımer, Midhat Sözer, Füruzan Tekil, Nazlı Tlabar, Ahmet Topçu, Celal Türkgeldi, Hüsnü Yaman, Sani Yaver, and Senihi Yürüten were all elected. Ali Fuat Cebesoy and Hadi Özyörük participated in the election as independents from the DP list. The CHP candidates Refet Bele, Ali Rıza Arı, Ekrem Amaç, Burhan Felek, Nikola Fakaçelli, and Muhittin Üstündağ lost their races. The DP candidates Hadi Hüsman and Seyfi Oran won seats in parliament in a by-election held on September 16, 1951.


Starting with a public notice published in Takvim-i Vekāyi on August 16, 1855, the post of mayor was developed according to the Dersaadet Belediye Kanunu (Istanbul Municipality Law) of 1877. According to this law, the Municipality of Istanbul was divided into 20 regions, and included the mayor’s office, municipal council, and the general council of the municipality.

13- An election campaign in Istanbul

 14- The act of casting votes

15- The election boxes in the districts of Pürtelaş Hasan and Kılıç Ali

16- An election campaign in Istanbul (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, Kültür A.Ş.)

The first municipal election was held in 1908. Thus, all 20 offices of the municipal administration became fully functional, and municipal councils were established. After the establishment of all the offices, the general council of the municipality, which had not yet convened, began to operate on December 26, 1908.

Istanbul mayors who served during this time were Salih Pasha, Hacı Hüsam Efendi, Osman Raşid Pasha, Hüseyin Bey (who served two nonconsecutive terms), Ahmed Şükrü Bey, Hacı Ahmed Efendi, Server Pasha, Haydar Efendi, Ali Rıza Bey, Besim Bey, Ali Pasha, Hekim İsmail Pasha (two terms), Feyzi Bey, Şevket Bey, Ali Kabuli Pasha, Kadri Pasha (two terms), Halet Pasha, Refik Bey, Galib Pasha, Ahmed Rasim Pasha, Reşid Pasha, Rıza Pasha (two terms), Mehmed Arif Pasha, Mazhar Pasha, and Rıdvan Pasha.

According to the interim law of the Municipality of Istanbul, enacted in 1912, municipal offices in Istanbul were removed and replaced with nine municipal divisions. A committee was to be established instead of a municipal council, and the mayor was to be appointed.

Reşid Mümtaz Pasha, Rauf Pasha, Ziver Bey, Hazım Bey, Halil Bey, Tevfik Bey (two terms), Suphi Bey, Hüseyin Kâzım Bey, Cemil Pasha Topuzlu (two terms), İsmet Bey, İsmail Bey (Canbolat), Bedri Bey, Sezai Bey (deputy), Kani Bey (deputy), Yusuf Ziya Bey (deputy), Hayrettin Bey (deputy), Salim Pasha, Yusuf Razi Pasha, Mehmet Ali Bey (deputy), Celal Bey, and Ziya Bey. Ziya Bey served as mayor between March 5, 1922, and April 13, 1923. On April 15, 1923, Ali Haydar (Yuluğ) became the first official after the abolition of the Ottoman sultanate to be appointed mayor.

Istanbul Mayors of the Republican Period

During the early Republican period, the minister of internal affairs appointed the mayors of Istanbul. During the process that led up to the declaration of the Republic, Ali Haydar Bey served both as governor and mayor of Istanbul. When Haydar Bey was assigned to the post of mayor of Ankara on June 8, 1924, he assigned his position in Istanbul to Emin Bey (Erkul).7

17- Muhittin Üstündağ who worked as the mayor of Istanbul between October 14, 1928 and December 4, 1938 (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality)

18- Lütfü Kırdar who worked as the mayor of Istanbul between December 8, 1938 and October 16, 1949 (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality)

After two years, Emin Erkul assigned the post to Muhittin Üstündağ. Muhittin Bey was the longest-serving mayor of Istanbul. After serving as mayor of Istanbul for 12 years, he became governor of Istanbul on August 21, 1930.

During the Republican period, the elections for municipal councilor were held every four years, and elected councilors selected the mayor, except in large cities like Istanbul and Ankara, where the mayors were appointed. Municipal Law No. 1580 was passed in 1930 during Muhittin Üstündağ’s time in office, introducing a new procedure and special regulations for the posts of mayor in Ankara and Istanbul.

Under that 1930 law, the posts of mayor and governor of Istanbul were combined in one post. The first person to be appointed to this post was Muhittin Üstündağ. On November 29, 1938, he was replaced by Lütfi Kırdar, who served as both mayor and governor for 11 years. After him, on October 18, 1949, Fahrettin Kerim Gökay was appointed governor of Istanbul.8

Mayors were sometimes asked to provide an account of their activities during their tenure in the CHP administration of Istanbul. Lütfi Kırdar reported on what he had achieved between 1938 and 1946 to the CHP City Congress. In this report, he stated that the income of the city had not been enough to cover expenses: “Those projects that we have been unable to achieve, despite our desire to do so, are not because of a lack of desire or due to negligence, but rather due to insufficient money and means.” Kırdar stated that the budget for Istanbul was 26,000,000 lira in 1946, with 3,000,000 to 4,000,000 lira of this budget being funded by the government. Citing World War II as the reason for the lack of work accomplished in the municipality, Kırdar asserted that in those years it was “impossible to import one water pipe, one street car, even a meter of rail.”The 1930 regulation that gave the government the ability to directly control Istanbul and Ankara was later abolished by the fifth clause of the Law to Abolish the Combined Administration of Istanbul, No. 6349, dated March 10, 1954.

The election of 1930 differed from previous elections, with the election of municipal councilors being held in a single stage for the first time. In addition, women were able to vote and stand for election for the first time. The two-party system was new in this election as well. Although the mayor of Istanbul was appointed rather than elected, this election was very important.

When the Liberal Republican Party (Serbest Cumhuriyet Fıkrası—SCF) decided to participate in elections, the number of candidates in the party increased. The elections, held across the country, were eventful; it took 10 days to complete them. The newly established SCF won 31 out of 502 municipalities.

Municipal Elections in Istanbul

The CHP received twice as many votes as the SCF in almost all districts except Sarıyer. The CHP won 35,942 votes in Istanbul, with the SCF taking 12,868. The Vakit newspaper stated that the CHP won 35,934 and the SCF 12,813 and that 250,746 Istanbul voters failed to turn out.9

The participation of multiple parties in local elections was experimented with in the 1930 election. Only a single party contested subsequent elections, and the principle of independent candidacy was eliminated. Single-party local elections were held in a much different ambiance.

In 1942, elections for the municipal council were held between September 1 and October 20. The elections were, according to the newspapers, unexciting. One reason cited was that the governor of Istanbul, Dr. Lütfi Kırdar, was also serving as mayor.

In Istanbul, voter registration was completed by September 8. The CHP candidates were declared two days before the election by the Kayseri MP, Suad Hayri Ürgüplü, who was the chief of the party administrative board. Voting was conducted between October 1 and 7. No information regarding this election can be found except that the main streets were decorated with flags, and “control officials, as needed, are present at the ballot boxes and these officials oversee that ballots are put into the ballot box properly.”10

Cumhuriyet announced the result of the election on October 16 with the headline “Counting votes cast for municipal elections has been completed.” This article noted that women had shown more interest in the election than men.

While propaganda, criticism, and debate did not occur during the election, the CHP Istanbul MPs met with the people during election week and listened to their demands, usually meeting in community centers. It was evident that the people were greatly interested in these meetings, and complained in particular about the scarceness of resources and the black market.

The countrywide local elections held in May 1946 were the first in the multi-party period. There was considerable tension between the ruling party (the CHP) and the opposition (the DP) due to a decision by the CHP to move the elections forward from May 26 to May 1.

The DP, which had only been in existence since that January, objected because this would not give them time to organize completely and thus would decrease their chance to win. In addition, the election laws were not favorable to the DP. In the end, the DP decided not to participate in the elections; however, they “observed at all stages.” The reports sent to DP headquarters stated that “a high degree of manipulation, interference and malpractice” had been detected in the elections. After the elections, some of these reports were published in a brochure titled Elections of 26 May.

After the general election held on May 14, 1950, after 27 years of rule, the CHP handed control over to the DP. Local elections held during the first year of DP rule were important for both parties. While the CHP took into consideration the public perception of the mistakes they made during the general election, the DP was trying to consolidate its own rule. The DP, CHP, and Millet Partisi participated in the municipal council elections, which were held on September 3, 1950; the DP won 560 out of 600 municipalities.


19- The governor of Istanbul and the mayor Muhittin Üstündağ (in white coat and with a cane in his hand) at October 29 Republic Day ceremonies (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, Kültür A.Ş.)

As illustrated, despite the gradual democratization of the national government, the same concept of free operation did not exist in local governments. The state aimed to control local governments through their own representatives. At this point, a debate that first emerged in the 1850s came onto the agenda again: although the people have the right to rule themselves, they do not have the proper qualities to do so. The tutelage of the electorate, which had at first been taken on by the intellectuals, in local administration was to be carried out by the state. The process, which began with the 1950 election, opened the door to an era in which the people would establish their democratic maturity and ability.


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1 11 Safer 1295 (14th February, 1878) dated decree, BOA, DUIT, 5-/5-4 Leff 1.

2 BOA, MV, 120/81 27 Şaban 1326 (24 September, 1908)

3 İkdam, 12th December, 1908, no. 5226, p. 1.

4 BOA, DH-SYS, 122/3-1/41.

5 A liste usulü çoğunluk system is one in which the party that gains the most votes in an electoral district wins the seats of that district.

6 For results of the election see Ulus, 7 April 1947; Cumhuriyet, 18 October 1948.

7 BCA, Reserve Code, Place number 1.3.1, 8.6.1926

8 BCA, Reserve Code, Place number, 120.72.8, 18.10.1949.

9 Vakit, 20 Teşrînievvel 1930.

10 Cumhuriyet, 2nd October 1942.

This article was translated from Turkish version of History of Istanbul with some editions to be published in a digitalized form in 2019.