Erdoğan hasn’t yet shown his hand: Pollster

Erdoğan hasn’t yet shown his hand: Pollster

Barçın Yinanç -
Erdoğan hasn’t yet shown his hand: Pollster President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is remaining coy as to his concrete plans for the future, the head of the ANAR polling company has suggested.

“I don’t think we have fully seen his hand,” said after Erdoğan revamped some of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). “Neither has there been a reformat, as some have suggested, nor has he softened his rhetoric as much as the other group suggested.”

How do you read President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s moves in terms of shaping the party’s new administration?

Those who thought there would be big changes and that the party would undergo a reset with a new format were wrong. The AKP has always renewed itself during general and local elections as well as during party congresses. The same happened this time as well. Forty percent of the MKYK [Central Decision Administration Board] has changed and the new members are those who came from within the party itself. At any rate, there was no need for the AKP to reformat as there was no failure that would have made such a reformat necessary.

But certainly there has been disappointment in terms of certain AKP strongholds where the “yes” vote was below expectations.

There we need to discuss the voting behavior. There is no meaning in criticizing the local organizations where there are certain sociological factors that have affected voting behavior. 

There is a group of voters who identify themselves as conservatives. They are younger than 35, they have a high degree of education, they live in big cities and their economic income is higher than the average. They believe in values like secularism, human rights and the European Union. I call them the white conservatives.

This bloc did not support the “yes” vote. This bloc could not be influenced by the party’s local branches. With the increase in urbanization, education and income levels, we will come across this type of electorate more, which will affect the political process. Each year, 1.2 million young people are added to the electorate. That is 2 percent of the electorate. A new generation is coming from below with different values. 

The AKP has contributed to the fact that this bloc has better and higher education and income levels.

In a way, has the AKP paid the price of its own success?

I don’t think there is a price which has been paid, but there is a new voter reality. This bloc did not abandon the AKP. There were factors within the package put to the referendum that they did not like.

But the president talked about “metal fatigue” within the party organization’s local branches.

There are three elections in 2019. He wants to prepare. I think he is looking for a profile who will be able to convince what I have called the white conservatives – a profile that can understand and communicate with young segments and women voters. That does not mean the AKP will change its vision or political positioning. In the party congress, he talked more about the past than the future. He defended the AKP tradition.

You are talking about the fact that the AKP has always been evolving gradually. Yet even within the party, some are arguing for a change and that the AKP should endorse a less polarizing rhetoric.

We have observed a change in the AKP’s behavior that started in 2013 due to the extraordinary developments the country faced. I think there is a difficulty in understanding the group within the right-wing conservative bloc which did not vote “yes,” and now the requirement of getting 50 percent plus one vote makes the risk bigger. We see reactions: One says, “Let’s go back to our original stance and be more endorsing of the masses.” The second group says, “This team is unsuccessful, let’s change the whole team and have a reset.”

I think there are other ways than these two options. The AKP needs to understand the new political reality and produce policies accordingly. 

What does the president’s moves right after the referendum tell us? 

I don’t think we have fully seen his hand. Neither has there been a reformat, as some have suggested, nor has he softened his rhetoric as much as the other group suggested. Still, he did distance himself from his rhetoric on the EU and international relations. He has talked about the six-month road maps; as these road maps are disclosed and reform packages start coming to parliament, we will then see how the president has perceived the reality and what kind of solutions he has in mind.

In your view, what will be important in these new packages and road maps?

It is important to see whether the electoral threshold will be lowered or not. Currently there is no need for an electoral threshold for stability. The system should guarantee pluralism and with that, no one can talk about one-man rule.

The law on political parties is also important in terms of intra-party discipline. Are we going to have parliamentarians who are not allowed to say anything other than the party line, or parliamentarians who can become more independent? The more parliamentarians feel free, the more you will guarantee the separation of powers between the executive and the legislative. Otherwise, there is the risk of the executive taking the legislative under its total control. 

The process about the reinstitution of capital punishment and the EU process and how these will develop will also be important to watch. 

Why would the president opt for a pluralistic system? He would rather opt for a system that gives him total control.

The president has to find a balance between the model with which he can best work with and the model that will make the electorate happy. There is a new electoral bloc that believes in pluralism that has internalized democracy.

What does the 50 percent-plus-one vote dictate to politicians? 

That politicians with harsh and extreme rhetoric will have a lesser chance of succeeding.

Those open to dialogue and consensus will have a higher chance. There is no homogeneous 50 percent in Turkey, which means that you have different ideologies, ethnicities and practices of faith. You need to appeal to all of that.  

The voter is becoming the real boss. Even small electoral groups can have a big impact on the political process. Voters will dictate politics from now on. The voter now has a more influential position.

It is a brand-new process for all political actors in Turkey. But the president has a tremendous advantage in observing electoral behavior and taking a position accordingly.

He will be the fastest to adapt to the new system. 

It seems foreign policy is increasingly becoming an issue of domestic policy. 

The AKP’s foreign policy successes were among the four or five top factors that led the electorate to vote in favor of the 2010 referendum. The AKP’s efforts to explain what it was doing in terms of foreign policy brought about a positive result in terms of voting behavior. The good relations the AKP forged with the EU gained the appreciation of the voter.  

What is the current situation in terms of foreign policy and relations with the EU? 

While the support for the EU has declined to less than 40 percent, there is another group in the electorate which are sensitive to the integration with the world and find relations with the EU important. So as this group has become very influential in the system, that requires a vote of 50 percent plus one, which means we cannot say the AKP will not be affected if it were to take a step that would break the process with the EU. One of the reasons why there was not a higher percentage of “yes” votes was also the stance on foreign policy. That’s why I don’t think this style will continue.

The bloc I have been talking about wants the continuation of relations with the EU and is against a breakup with the EU. They have Western values, and they don’t want a breakup with the West.

Who is İbrahim Uslu?


Erdoğan hasn’t yet shown his hand: Pollster

Born in 1966, İbrahim Uslu studied in public administration at Istanbul University’s Political Science Faculty between 1983 and 1987 before conducting a master’s at the same school from 1988 to 1991.

He received a doctorate focusing on social policies from Istanbul University in 1999.

Four the next four years, he served as a faculty member at the university while also working for a communication consultancy company, Bersay İletişim Danışmanlığı, between 2003 and 2004.

Since 2004, Uslu has been the general manager of the Ankara Social Research Center (ANAR).