Referendum result asks CHP new questions

Referendum result asks CHP new questions

ANALYSIS - Ali Kayalar
Referendum result asks CHP new questions

The tight win in the April 16 constitutional amendment referendum will leave the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) with much to ponder. The party lost its dominance in Turkey’s largest cities Istanbul and Ankara, falling far behind the sum total of 60.4 percent that it and its referendum ally the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) achieved in the most recent general election on Nov. 1, 2015.

However, the opposition, particularly the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) will also have to answer difficult questions. It faces the tough task of finding a competitive candidate against a strong Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the upcoming race in 2019 - if an early election is not called - and this time the vote will be for the entire executive power. 

A big problem for the CHP is the memory of failure in the first public-vote presidential election in August 2014, in which Erdoğan spurred nearly 52 percent of the votes as Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, the joint candidate of the CHP and the MHP, won just 38.5 percent. 

A second difficulty in picking a real rival to Erdoğan is that it will probably not have the support of the MHP, which has also faced an internal divide due to its alliance with Erdoğan and the AKP. 

Meanwhile, the opposition could also face problems in terms of getting its voters to accept the legitimacy of the new system. The party has been successful in netting nearly half the votes, which means that it and other opposition parties have succeeded in convincing half of voters to vote for the continuation of the parliamentary system. This means it will not be easy to mobilize today’s “No” voters against the presidential system to vote in favor of an executive presidency candidate. 

However, it could be an option to campaign behind a candidate who promises a further constitutional change that would reduce the new powers granted to the president. Such an unorthodox move could help the party make a call to other opposition parties to unite under one roof.