Economy, terror and Kurdish votes
It was Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) chair Devlet Bahçeli who first ignited the early election debates. He said if the constitutional offers are not processed in the parliament, if the parliament is blocked then they will “take it to the nation” to decide. He was strongly supported by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who said if the parliament is blocked then early elections was not out of the question.
Bahçeli is a leader who sets the political agenda. The Nov. 3, 2002 elections were held due to him. The presidential system entered our agenda with Bahçeli’s proclamation. President Erdoğan is a leader who opts for general elections when the parliament is blocked.
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım is reported to have said, “the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and MHP have submitted constitutional changes to the parliament. If the changes are not processed in the parliament, then there would be a political price for it.”
In the AK Party lobbies, the early election is regarded as the “B Plan.” Some cabinet ministers emphasized that the second round of voting was critical: “In the first round, the affirmative votes were between 341 and 343. This means 330 plus 10 or more support. It is not a knife edge situation. There will not be a surprise in the second round.”
The “A Plan” of AK Party is the referendum. Preparations have been made accordingly. President Erdoğan is reported to have told the AK Party to process the constitutional amendments in the parliament with the MHP, then he would work with the nation in the referendum. Erdoğan will hold rallies; Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım will probably work differently.
I spoke to cabinet ministers and party administrators at AK Party. The party will hold a campaign for the first time without Erol Olçok, who died on July 15. The party counts on the campaign led by President Erdoğan. Several estimates about the result of the referendum have 52 percent and over. There are 58 percent and even 60 percent guesses. The average is 55 percent.
Two concerns are voiced in AK Party lobbies; one is economy, the other is terror.
On the day the constitutional change was submitted to the parliament, on Dec. 10, the Beşiktaş attack was done. It was spoken at AK Party halls that “a superior mind started the referendum campaign.” A cabinet minister close to Erdoğan said they were mostly concerned by terror incidents during the referendum campaign. As a matter of fact, because of the rise in the foreign exchange rate, the economy has exceeded terror. A deputy prime minister said, “Like in the 2001 crisis, four major banks are in an attack against Turkey. With the $400 million - $500 million they have, they manipulate the foreign currency market.”
The economy management is now working on a support package for big companies now, after the SMEs. The package will include bank assurances also.
As a third concern, after economy and terror, come the Kurdish votes. While the referendum strategy is determined, one of the important aspects will be the Kurdish votes. The AK Party has winked at nationalist votes by making a constitutional change with the MHP, by conducting a harsh fight against the PKK, with the arrests of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) members and with the Euphrates Shield operation in Syria. The nationalist votes are necessary but not enough for a high percentage in the referendum. The Kurdish votes are crucial in the referendum.
The AK party is reported to be in a search for the Kurdish votes. “Kurds have turned away from the HDP,” it is being said, “but they have not turned their faces to AK Party.”