Analyzing the rise in ‘nationalist movement’ votes in Turkey’s southeast

Analyzing the rise in ‘nationalist movement’ votes in Turkey’s southeast

One of the most contentious pictures drawn by the June 24 snap parliamentary elections was how the votes of the Kurdish issue-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) decreased in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority southeast, and how the Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) votes increased in the same region.

Apart from provinces such as Şanlıurfa and Adıyaman, the HDP has lost votes in southeast. In contrast, the MHP has raised its vote share in almost all provinces, though in some that is by a small extent. The way the MHP increased its votes in the southeast while losing votes in the west and the Mediterranean provinces remains a surprising outcome of the election.

To give an example, the MHP won 2.8 percent of the votes in Şanlıurfa in the Nov. 1, 2015 snap parliamentary election. On June 24, the MHP won 9.3 percent of the votes in Şanlıurfa – a rise of 6.1 percentage points.

Here are the southeastern and eastern provinces that have a significant ethnic Kurdish population and where the MHP saw an increase in its votes:

  • Iğdır: 11.2 percent
  • Adıyaman: 6.1 percent
  • Bingöl: 4.1 percent
  • Tunceli: 3.1 percent
  • Şırnak: 2.8 percent
  • Hakkari: 2.4 percent
  • Muş: 2.4 percent
  • Bitlis: 2.2 percent
  • Siirt: 2.0 percent
  • Van: 2.0 percent
  • Ağrı: 1.0 percent
  • Mardin: 1.8 percent
  • Diyarbakır: 0.8 percent
  • Batman: 0.6 percent

The MHP seems happy with the votes it has won. MHP deputy Mustafa Kalaycı says the party has “broken the perception that the MHP cannot win Kurdish votes.”

“The PKK losing its dominating power over voters in the region has helped our Kurdish brothers and sisters vote with their free will,” Kalaycı said.

There is a key point that needs emphasizing when analyzing the MHP votes: The MHP initially saw an increase in its votes in the June 2015 election, before seeing a loss in its votes when the snap elections took place in the November 2015 snap election.

On June 24, the MHP made up that loss in its votes and even added some more on top of it. The share of votes in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır really tell the story. We can also see the same impact in border provinces such as Hakkari and Şırnak.
For example, as the MHP won 1.18 percent of the votes in Şırnak in the 2011 elections, it won 2.38 percent in June 2015. In November 2015, the MHP lost votes and won 1.24 percent of the provincial total On June 24, it won 4.0 percent.

And does the increase in the MHP’s votes in the region have anything to do with the movements in the votes won by its electoral ally, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)?

Although the AKP was able to increase its votes in the region to a certain extent in several provinces, it lost its former share in provinces such as Bingöl, Adıyaman and Batman. The steepest fall for the AKP in the southeast was in Şanlıurfa.

It is interesting how the MHP increased its votes in provinces where the AKP saw a decrease in its votes. For example, the AKP’s votes in Adıyaman fell by 14.4 percentage points and the MHP rose by 6.1 percentage points. In Bingöl, the AKP fell by 9.3 percentage points and the MHP rose by 4.1 percentage points. It seems clear that at least some of the votes that the AKP lost were received by the MHP.

The most interesting of all outcomes in the southeast surfaced in Şanlıurfa, where the MHP was able to win one MP. The AKP’s votes fell from 64.6 percent to 52.7 percent, while the MHP’s votes went up from 2.8 to 9.3 percent, meaning that candidate İbrahim Özyavuz was able to secure his seat in parliament.

Özyavuz acted as a provincial mayor from the AKP in the past. His wife Çağla Aktemur Özyavuz also served as a lawmaker from Şanlurfa between 2007 and 2011. Özyavuz, who has ties with local tribes, then parted ways with the AKP and joined the MHP.

Looking at this picture, we can see that the MHP seems to have served as a major alternative for the AKP in the region. Some tribal groups in the region have no problem supporting the MHP, it seems.

MHP, Southeastern Turkey, June 24 elections