MHP likely to become key political player
Osmaniye is a province that draws special interest and attention on each election or referendum as it is the hometown of Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). In this context, the spotlight was again on Osmaniye on the April 16 constitutional amendments referendum.
On the Nov. 1, 2015, general elections, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) received 137,000 votes in Osmaniye, while the MHP got 98,000 votes. This pointed out to a potential of 235,000 votes in the two-party alliance. However, the “Yes” votes in Osmaniye remained at nearly 170,000 in the referendum.
On the other hand, the “No” votes went up to around 123,000. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) received 40,000 votes in Osmaniye on Nov. 1, while the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) received 9,000 votes; thus adding up to a potential of 49,000 votes. For this figure to reach 123,000; however you slice it, there has to be an additional 75,000 votes. This support for the “No” votes on April 16 has undeniably come from both the AK Party and MHP. Studying various election data tells us that a significant portion of the grassroots of the MHP does not necessarily comply with the calls of the party leadership and the direction shown; in fact, it has a feature of casting their votes according to their own convictions. As a matter of fact, this party, since 1997, when Bahçeli became its leader, demonstrates a political organism identity in constant mobility. The MHP was the second party with 17.98 percent in the 1999 elections, but in the next elections in 2002 it could not pass the 10 percent threshold with 8.36 percent. In the 2007 elections, it recovered with 14.27 percent. This pattern of growth and shrinkage can be observed in the later elections.
Finally, despite the alliance the party leadership formed with the AK Party to support the constitutional changes on the April 16 referendum, a substantial segment of the MHP grassroots have cast “No” votes.
According to IPSOS exit polls on April 16, about 73 percent of MHP voters have said “No.” Another survey company Metropoll estimated one week before the referendum that 57 percent of MHP voters would vote “No,” with 32.2 percent voting “Yes” and a 10.8 percent undecided. Assuming that the undecided ones mostly voted negative, then the findings of these two surveys check out. In short, there has been a strong shift in favor of the “No” in the MHP grassroots on April 16.
Transitivity of AK Party-MHP votes
This mobility in the rates of the MHP tells us that despite the static course of CHP votes within the years with no growths or shrinkages, the political behavior of the MHP electorate is not possible to be evaluated within precise templates. Despite the image of a disciplined, leader-based party when looked from the outside, when it comes to voting, we see an electorate profile of one that very often does not necessarily abide by the decisions of the party administration and one which features the option to act independently. In this respect, the degree of success of the AK Party as the dominant right political movement, as well as other factors, is determined to a certain extent by the shift of the MHP votes and their maneuvers; also the ability that MHP draws votes from them. MHP is the party that attracts the most votes from the AK Party. The votes that left the MHP mostly ended up with the AK Party. There is a meaningful extent of transitivity between these two parties. The two elections held in 2015 resulted based upon this transitivity. In the constitutional referendum on amendments in high judicial organs in 2010, despite the MHP administration decision on a “No” vote, there was a limited shift in the grassroots to the “Yes;” likewise, in the 2014 presidential elections, there was limited support for Erdoğan from the MHP electorate. The contribution of the MHP grassroots for the partially balanced outcome between the “Yes” and “No” votes in the last referendum is substantial.
Despite the fact that the governing system of the country has changed, in terms of what direction the political developments would take in the near future, once more, the options to be adopted by MHP grassroots constitute significant consequences. At the same time, when one considers that a serious power struggle ongoing within the MHP and that moves to convene a party congress, which have been taken to court, are pending; this significance is carried to a critical dimension.
As a result, it would not be a mistake to say that the mobility on the political stage in the coming times will mostly occur on the MHP front.