Turkey is heading to the polls on Sunday to vote for its president and parliament members. Almost 55 million voters are expected to participate in the elections. The political parties had formed alliances months ago before the election campaigns kicked off. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Great Union Party (BBP) united as the “People’s Alliance” while the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Good Party (İP), Felicity Party (SP) and Democrat Party (DP) formed the “Nation Alliance.” The parties of the two alliances do not have to pass the 10 percent election threshold for the first time, while the others that are not included in any alliance, such as the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), have to.
Turkey has entered into a transformation and transition process with the April 16, 2017 referendum that resulted in changing the country’s governing system from the parliamentary system to the presidential one. Accordingly, the Sunday elections will be a turning point for the country. The joint candidate of the People’s Alliance President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was the leading figure of this transformation. As stated in the elections manifesto, President Erdoğan wants to make the country stronger with this transformation. His main purpose is to strengthen the separation of powers.
The members of the Nation Alliance are going to the polls with their own candidates: Muharrem İnce for the CHP, Meral Akşener for the İP and Temel Karamollaoğlu for the SP while the HDP is running with Selahattin Demirtaş – the party’s former co-chair who is currently locked up.
Although the CHP and HDP didn’t make an official deal, they are following very similar campaigns and acting cooperatively. The Nation Alliance’s biggest goal is to cancel the transition to the presidential system that was supported by the majority of the people in the April 16 referendum. Since they know that people have bad memories for the old days of Turkey, they hesitate to speak loudly about their goals in public meetings.
In the new system, the Parliament and president are both very significant for the legislation since the president will have the authority to govern the country with his own team while the Parliament will be determinant actor in enacting laws. That’s why the two alliances are in a really tight race. It is not hard to foresee that the president, who cannot control the legislation process, can be deprived of legislation support if the majority of Parliament opposes him or her. Such a scenario would lead politics to get stuck. That’s why the presidential candidates are working hard to not only win but also get the majority of Parliament for their parties.
Consolidation of party bases
There are two basic dynamics among many necessary criteria that are likely to affect their results of the elections. The extent of the voter base of the political parties and their compliance are of the top priority. The motivated voters will for sure benefit the party.The second main point is the voting behavior of the swing voters. According to the poll surveys, the number of these voters sits at approximately 10% percent. It seems that each candidate needs to convince them to win the election.
Promises and future plans
The leaders of the Nation Alliance and their joint candidate Muharrem İnce makes many promises, few of which sound new or good. Many of them sound familiar, like the late political parties’ empty and populist promises in the ’90s. However, the Turkish people expect more concrete promises and projects and they are turning a deaf ear to populism. The opposition parties, particularly the CHP, stirred up their supporters not with concrete projects but with anti-Erdoğanism. Regarding the fact that swing voters decide according to rational promises and projects, it seems hard for the opposition to convince them on Sunday. In other words, anti-Erdoğanism is not enough or a reason for them to vote for the opposition.
The best way to win the hearts and minds of the swing voters is to generate economic policies. It is fair to say that the AK Party is the party with the most advantaged among the others for future hopes with having giant projects. The crowds in President Erdoğan’s rallies across the country are simply enough to prove it. Besides for concrete projects, the AK Party’s initiatives on industry and development also play a big role in gaining popularity across society. During its 16 years, the AK Party has become the most successful party, so far in investing in these fields, particularly by building fully-equipped hospitals, bridges, tunnels and manufacturing national helicopters and drones. The project to establish National Parks, i.e. the one to be constructed in place of the Istanbul Atatürk Airport after it is moved to the northern region of the metropolis, sparkles and stands out. Regarding the fact that swing voters decide according to not ideological but rational policies, the AK Party seems to get the majority of their votes. In one word, President Erdoğan’s slogan “Only the AK Party Can Do It” summarizes the current atmosphere.
Therefore, as the final days approach for the Sunday presidential elections, President Erdoğan and his AK Party seems to have consolidated its base and reached a common consensus among swing voters. All are now counting days for the long-expected elections.
* Associate professor at Istanbul Medipol University’s communication faculty
[Daily Sabah, 20 June 2018]