A quantum leap in voter behavior
Turkey’s snappiest snap poll is on the horizon. It is so urgent and fast that even the most devoted pollsters are having a hard time predicting. It is also a big risk for the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). Unlike what Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan were expecting, the opposition is not lacking any candidate. In fact, they may have too many.
Over the weekend, while the Supreme Election Board (YSK) was busy deciding on how to prevent the İYİ (Good) Party and Meral Akşener from participating in the elections, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu unexpectedly pulled a card from his sleeve and sent 15 MPs from the CHP to the İYİ Party to form a group in the Turkish Parliament. This move will allow the İYİ Party to enter the race without going through the hassle of collecting signatures. But the CHP may want a move in return.
Sözcü, a leading opposition paper close to CHP and İYİ Party circles, writes that a true alliance on the opposition front will be formed in the parliamentary elections. Turkey’s opposition parties may form a strong majority in the parliament that could block any unilateral action by a president-elect.
İhsan Aktaş, a leading pollster close to the AK Party and the founder of GENAR claims such Byzantine tricks may be too complicated for the voter. “The opposition is trying to build an architecture that may be very tricky for the ordinary voter. All these calculations are too difficult to maintain in the end,” Aktaş said.
Aktas may have a point. But elections have come too early and even the most devout AK Party follower has a question mark in mind. “If everything was fine, why are they rushing now? What is it they cannot fix?”
Ankara insiders see slipping numbers in the AK Party-MHP alliance. It is not only the poll numbers either. Financially, a tough summer is on the horizon. Housing sales have slumped to their lowest level in five years. Plus, the government has delayed most of its transfer payments to municipalities. The most symbolic of the crisis may be the delay of compensation payments to soldiers and police that have served in the “Olive Branch Operation” in Afrin. Turkish Armed Forces and police are still in uniform serving their state and their flag proudly. But their homes may have less food on the table.
Let’s be clear. Meral Akşener has been the driving force for these elections. So, anything that can block her way, directly or indirectly will leave a question mark on the voter’s mind. Anything that may sound like she was the “rabbit” in this race for former president Abdullah Gül will guarantee a first-round victory for Erdoğan. So, if the opposition is aiming for a proper parliamentarian system with a powerful but not iron-fisted president, let the lady run.
Politicians and parties may not get it. But under these tough circumstances, Turkey’s electorate is going through a political quantum leap. Even in the most conservative neighborhoods there is discontent and economic worry. As Gülfem Saydam Sanver, a political communication consultant put it, “the silent, angry voter is out there and they may be bigger and smarter than you think. They were the force behind Macron and Trump.”
And they may be coming to an election near you.