From anxious moderns to anxious conservatives
One other outcome of the April 16 referendum is that in big cities voting patterns differed between city centers and its peripheries. Looking at Istanbul, I especially focused on four districts where the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is strong; all of these four municipalities are run by the AK Party.
Two of them, Üsküdar and Bayrampaşa, are at the city center; they do not receive immigration and the population is stable. The other two are Sultangazi and Sultanbeyli, where immigration is ongoing and they can to a certain extent be regarded as slums sociologically.
The method here is to add the votes of the AK Party to the votes the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) received in these four districts in the Nov.1, 2015 general elections, and compare how this potential translated into “Yes” votes one and a half years after in the constitutional referendum.
Sultanbeyli, on the Asian side of Istanbul, has a potential vote figure of 131,000, which is the AK Party plus the MHP votes. In this district, the “Yes” votes were 1,500 short of this figure. In this constituency, the number of voters increased by about 7,000.
From these numbers, we can conclude that the alliance succeeded; at least AK Party voters converted their choices to “Yes” votes without receiving any serious loss. The deviation of the potential on Nov. 1 converting into “Yes” votes on April 16 is around 1.1 percent.
The outcome in Sultangazi, on the European side of the city, is slightly different. The voting potential of the alliance of 198,000 votes came out 10,000 votes less, as around 188,000 “Yes” votes. The number of new voters in this district is more than 7,000. In Sultangazi, the loss of votes of the alliance when compared to the potential corresponds to 4.7 percent.
On the other hand, Üsküdar, at the heart of the city, showed a different pattern.
Despite the vote potential of the alliance being 204,000 in the Nov. 1 elections; the “Yes” votes in the referendum are quite lower, with 37,000 less, standing at 167,000. The increase in the number of voters in Üsküdar is less than 2,000. As a result, 17 percent of the AK Party and MHP alliance did not vote “Yes.” The total number of yea-sayers is even below AK Party’s 170,000 votes of Nov. 1. In this district, where the “No” votes won, there is obviously a thought-provoking situation for the AK Party.
Also in Bayrampaşa, which has completed its urbanization to a great extent and has a stable population, the vote potential of around 115,000 people on Nov. 1 has come out with 21,000 less, as 94,000 “Yes” votes. Here, the deviation of the vote potential of Nov. 1 compared to the referendum is at a rate of 18 percent.
As you can see, the separation trend of both parties from the “Yes” vote is around 1 percent and 4 percent in the peripheries of the city; while this rate goes up to 17-18 percent in central areas.
When this rate is calculated in other districts, the Fatih district - also in the center - has a high one at 16 percent. This rate is around 13 percent in Beyoğlu.
Daily Hürriyet columnist Taha Akyol defines this contradiction between the city center and the peripheries as an “undercurrent that guides the change.” According to Akyol, as you approach the city center from the edges, the community-neighborhood type of solidarity behavior based on authority or doctrine leaves its place to behaviors based on individual freedoms.
The fact that this change occurred in the urban conservative grassroots of the AK Party no doubt contains a series of both political and sociological messages.
Perhaps, after the urban modern discontents, this time we will be talking about conservative discontents.
N.B. The “discontent urban conservatives” expression was first used by daily Türkiye writer Ceren Kenar.