Analyzing the referendum results from Central Anatolia
As we all digest the results of Turkey’s April 16 referendum approving a shift to an executive presidential system, let’s take a look at Central Anatolia, one of the strongholds of nationalist and conservative sentiment.
Perhaps the most striking landscape to emerge in this region was in the Kırıkkale province, where the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) has a significant history. In this province, the “Yes” votes in the April 16 referendum were just 103,784, below the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) total votes of 105,031 in the November 2015 election.
The “No” votes in Kırıkkale, on the other hand, were 62,478. The parties that made up the “No” front - the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the Felicity Party (SP) - together received just 26,000 votes in the November 2015 election in Kırıkkale. However you slice it, for this figure to reach 62,000 in the referendum, at least 36,000 votes should be added. It is perhaps worth nothing that the MHP’s total votes in November 2015 were around 34,000 in Kırıkkale.
This situation does not mean that all MHP voters voted “No” as a bloc. But it is certainly worth noting this numerical closeness.
We see a similar trend in the nearby province of Kırşehir. The “Yes” votes in this province in the referendum were 72,363, while the “No” votes were 63,520. In the November 2015 election the AK Party received 69,874 votes. The CHP received 24,547 votes and the HDP received 6,942 votes (amounting to 31,489 votes). To reach the 63,000 “No” votes in the referendum, some 32,000 additional votes were needed. The number of votes the MHP received in November 2015 was 32,760.
A similar situation appears in the Sivas province, where the electorate body decreased by around 2,300 voters. The AK Party received 262,690 votes in previous elections and the number of “Yes” votes in the referendum was 262,404. The number of “No” votes was 105,730. When the decrease in the number of voters as well as the 7,500 votes of the BBP supporting “Yes” are taken into account, the AK Party saw a drop here. When the votes of the CHP, the MHP, the HDP and the SP votes are added, the total figure is about 3,000 higher than “No” votes. It seems that a serious shift from the MHP to the “No” camp can be cited for Sivas.
One of the most notable referendum results occurred in Konya. In the referendum 928,602 voters in Konya opted for “Yes.” This figure is 28,000 less than the AK Party’s votes of around 957,000 in November 2015. So it is possible to say that the AK Party suffered a huge disappointment in Konya on April 16, with “Yes” registering a significant number of votes fewer than its own vote share. What’s more, there were around 38,000 new voters in the province, so the AK Party also did not get the share it wanted from first-time voters.
Konya is a province where the CHP is politically weak. In November 2015 it only received 121,000. When the 40,000 HDP and 11,000 SP votes are added, a potential figure of 172,000 is reached for the “No” block. However, in the referendum the “No” in Konya reached 345,000. For the 224,000 vote gap to be made up there must have been a significant shift from the AK Party as well as the grassroots of the MHP, which received 146,000 votes in November 2015.
Not too different from big cities
It is therefore possible to say the rate of MHP voters shifting to the “No” front in several Central Anatolian provinces is not too far behind the corresponding rate in big cities, even though the latter has been much more commented on.
Of course, the essential problem in this analysis, based directly on vote counts, is the difficulty created by the numerical approach in fully interpreting undercurrents. For instance, there were probably several cases where voters who voted “Yes” in line with the MHP party leadership’s decision were counterbalanced by “No” votes from the AK Party.
Nevertheless, as a general observation it would not be wrong to conclude that the “No” tendency in the MHP in Central Anatolia was stronger than it was in the AK Party.