Voter behavior ahead of Turkey elections 2018
As the tables attached show, public support for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has not followed a stable path, but has fluctuated up and down. The 49.83 percent (or 21.4 million) of the vote the AKP garnered in the 2011 election was the highest, pointing to the fact that one out of two people on the street voted for the AKP.
The first noticeable rupture, which could be described as a decline in votes, happened in the March 30, 2014 local elections and heralded the big defeat the party was to suffer in the June 7, 2015 poll. In this election, which is not included in the table, the AKP’s overall vote, which consists of the “provincial council” votes in 51 cities and “municipal council” votes in 30 metropolitan municipalities, declined to 43.6 percent (19.1 million votes).
Following this brief faltering, AKP leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was elected president four months later by securing 21 million votes with a 51.79 percent share in total votes. It should be remembered that the vote Erdoğan garnered was the same with the AKP secured in the 2011 parliamentary election and the number of eligible voters in the country increased by 2.8 million over the three years between the two elections. Moreover, those votes cast for Erdoğan included non-AKP voters who supported Erdoğan in the presidential election.
The AKP’s vote in the June 7, 2015 election dramatically declined to 18,867,000. That was 2.5 million lower than the AKP garnered in 2011 and was very close to the votes it secured in the March 30 local elections. Starting from this, we can conclude that the retreat the party suffered in the March local elections has become permanent.
The Nov. 1 election that was held five months after the June 7 poll, delivered a surprising victory for the AKP, which garnered 50 percent of the vote. The AKP increased its votes to 23,681,000 or 49.50 percent. The most striking fact is that the AKP’s votes rose by a record 4.8 million within five months during which the conjuncture in the country sharply changed.
A basic calculation suggests that 1.8 million of those additional votes came from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and 900,000 from the Kurdish issue-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). We can also say 350,000 votes shifted from the Felicity Party (Saadet Partisi). All those votes exceed 3 million. Nearly 1 million voters who are mostly AKP supporters but did not go to the polling stations in the June 7 elections cast their votes that time and the higher turnout explained where the large part of the remaining votes came from. The decline in the number of invalid votes from 1,344,000 in the June 7 elections to 697,000 in the Nov. 1 poll, the first-time voters, and the shift in the votes from other smaller parties to the AKP are the other factors.
However, it was yet to be seen in the April 16, 2017 referendum on the constitutional changes that the increase in the AKP’s votes in the Nov. 1 poll was not a lasting one. The AKP and MHP joined forces for the referendum. In the Nov. 1 election, the combined votes of the AKP (23.7 million) and the MHP (5.7 million) were 29,400,000, but the 25.1 million “yes” votes suggest the alliance failed to create the desired synergy.
In any case, MHP supporters accounted for a significant portion of the “yes” votes. Moreover, it is also known that in the referendum some HDP supporters, albeit in a limited number, switched to the “yes” block in the referendum. Taking those two factors into account, it is obvious that the AKP failed to retain the votes it garnered in the April 16 referendum in the Nov. 1, 2015 election.
If we look at how the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has fared, it is observed that the party has managed to retain its votes around 25 percent.