The most interesting coalition in Turkey's political history
Let’s approach the referendum results from a simple mathematical perspective.
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) received 23.68 million votes (49.4 percent) in the Nov. 1, 2015, elections, enabling it to form the government. The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) votes declined to 5. 69 million (11.9 percent). In the Nov. 1 elections, the total number of votes of the two parties who joined hands in the “yes” front was 29.37 million, or 61.3 percent of the electorate.
Yet it has been seen once again that two plus two does not always make four in politics. If you consider that the “yes” votes remained at around 25.16 million, these two parties have lost 4.22 million votes compared to the November elections.
In addition, let’s not forget that the number of voters increased from 56.95 million to 58.37 million.
The number of votes registered increased by 1.2 million compared to the Nov. 1 elections.
An important part of this 4.2 million joined the “no” camp. Obviously everyone is curious to know how much of that loss comes from the MHP and AKP. At any rate, both parties have seen a significant vote loss.
Let’s look at the Republican People’s Party (CHP). The CHP got 12.11 million votes (25.3 percent) in the November elections. The Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) got 5.15 million votes (10.7 percent). The total of their votes makes 17.26 million.
However, the “no” votes reached 23.78 million, good for a 6.5 million increase. This is 2.3 million votes more than the 4.2 million loss from the AKP-MHP duo. Part of this increase might stem from the rise in the number of voters. One can also guess that some other smaller parties might have joined the “no” camp.
This general situation in the country is valid for the cities as well. In several cities, the “yes” votes coming from the ballot box is significantly below the total votes received by the MHP and AKP in previous elections.
Let’s examine this in the Kayseri example. In the Nov. 1 elections, the AKP got 528,000 votes and the MHP got 148,000 votes, together making 676,000. Yet the “yes” votes remained at 557,000. We understand that 119,000 people who had previously cast their votes for the AKP or MHP cast “no” votes to a large extend.
The CHP received a little bit over 98,000 while the HDP recevied a little bit over 10,000 votes. The total number of the votes received by the two was 109,000. The “no” votes exceeded that number and reached 265,000. It is obvious that in addititon to the factor of the new electorate, a shift from AKP and MHP votes played an importat role in the increase of 159,000.
From whichever way you look at it; the grouping that participated in the “no” campaign has perhaps established one of the most interesting alliances in Turkey’s political history.
In this alliance, we can count the CHP; HDP, a crowd that opposed the “yes” vote of the MHP leadership, AKP voters who have deviated from their party line and certain segments which have different political tendencies other than the four parties. Republicans, nationalists, conservatives, supporters of the Kurdish political movement and many several other groups have come together and created a political impact of a critical mass.
Here, each group might have said “no” for different reasons. The concern to protect the future of the republic of a CHP supporter was perhaps replaced by the questions of an AKP partisan about the presidential system. But we can say that an opposing stance against the presidential system and the authoritarianism identified with it, as well as democratic concerns, have become an important common denominator for all these groups.
When looked from that perspective, an important threshold which has revealed the maturity of Turkey’s democratic tradition has been overcome.
In fact, sociologist Sencer Ayata provided this analysis published in daily BirGün:
“I think this referendum is perhaps the biggest step toward the development of a democratic civil society in Turkey. The ‘no’ movement has been the most important democratic experience. It is the first time that different segments in favor of freedoms in Turkey have established such a wide spectrum.”
No doubt, the value of this democratic entity does not change the truth that the “yes” front won at the ballot box.
The critical issue here is how President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will use the political power he acquired through the referendum against the other half of the country which disagrees with him. Will Erdoğan take into consideration the message given by the “no” voters and move toward consensus and endorse a unifying rhetoric; or will he totally ignore that segment with a “winner takes all” approach?
The answer to that question carries big importance in terms of the future of societal peace and political stability.