Erdoğan to name next president, says pollster

Erdoğan to name next president, says pollster

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Erdoğan to name next president, says pollster

People’s minds are not yet clear on the presidential system, İbrahim Uslu tells the Daily News in Istanbul. “Because they don’t know much about it, they don’t have much of an opinion,” says Uslu who lives in Ankara.

There will be no surprises when Turks go to the polls to select their new president because the electorate will select whoever gets the nod for the post from the prime minister, according to a pollster for the governing party.

“Right now, the electorate is ready to support [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] on any issue he wants,” said İbrahim Uslu, the general manager of ANAR Ankara Social Researches Center, which conducts periodic surveys for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

If Erdoğan decides to run himself in the elections, which will likely be held in 2014, he would likely win in the first round, Uslu told the Hürriyet Daily News in a recent interview.

What is the outlook of the electorate one year after the June 12, 2011, general elections?

We have been conducting periodic surveys since the elections. The support ratio never went below 53 percent [the AKP received 50 percent in the elections]. The electorate seems to be happy with the government’s performance and, despite certain incidents, it never withdrew its support. We see that political balances that were established on June 12, 2011, are continuing.

What is the electorate’s outlook on the presidential elections?

It’s not yet on the agenda of the electorate, which is very realist. It will think about it when the time comes.

But there must be an expectation about Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s presidency.

Yes, there is such conviction. At any rate, there won’t be any hesitation for the AK Party electorate. The AK Party controls more than half of the votes; the electorate is ready to support Erdoğan on whichever issue he asks for their support on. They don’t see him just as a party head but as a true leader.

So you claim that Erdoğan will be elected if he were to put forward his candidacy?

As of today, the electorate is ready to support him on any issue he wants. He will also get support if he were to suggest someone else for the presidency. The minds of the electorate about the AK Party’s candidate are very clear. Whoever the prime minister asks [to be a candidate] will get [the electorate’s] support.

Isn’t this quite an ambitious claim you make?

The last referendum was an indicator for us. When there were two options to choose from, the electorate supported the AK Party’s position. There is no reason why something similar wouldn’t happen with the presidency.

But it is said that liberals who supported the AKP in the referendum have serious complaints about the AKP. Won’t this then have an impact on the outcome?

If it were to come to the point of changing the outcome, the AK Party has a high degree of flexibility, and it can sometimes change its position. If it were to feel there is a resentful mass, it has the flexibility to reconcile with those resentful. This happened in the past.

Can the AKP get support on the presidential system as well?

People’s minds are not yet clear on the subject. We saw that they do not know much about the details of the presidential system. Because they don’t know much about it, they don’t have much of an opinion. Either they don’t have an opinion, or they react according to their party’s position. If two parties agree and turn to explain it to their electorate, there is no reason for the electorate not to be convinced. The Turkish nation likes strong leaders. It has no problem with strong leaders.

What is your personal projection?

The prime minister has repeated many times that he will not be elected another time. It seems rational that he will put forward his candidacy for presidency, and I think he will be elected in the first round. There will be no surprise with the presidential elections. The real surprise – or let’s say debate and excitement – will be on what kind of developments will take place when Erdoğan leaves the head of the party.

What is the likelihood that the presidential system will be implemented?

Right now, I don’t think it is possible. It is more possible to agree on a new, civilian constitution. The party leaders have said they will not be the ones to leave the table as they know that the electorate will seriously punish them if they do.

What are the projections for the future prime minister?

We don’t have to wait long to see ahead. There is a party congress this autumn, and there we will see the new top administration that the AKP will continue with. In the congress there will be a redesign as the top administration will be reshaped. Another reference will be local elections since we will see which names will shift to lead the municipalities or to the positions within the party.

What are the preferences of the electorate?

We have not asked because it is too early.

In the past, when party leaders went to the presidency, the party they left behind lost power.

There are exceptions to that, like the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). There is no reason the same cannot be done by a right-wing party. It might lose a few votes, but what is important is to have a right-wing party and a left-wing party, just like in Britain or the United States and that these parties can be institutionalized and can continue their existence independent of their leader, as that system brings stability.

Is this where Turkey is heading?

Turkey is close to 2.5 parties. Actually, there are two half parties, a Kurdish one and a nationalist one. In fact, one cannot even pass the threshold. I believe the electorate likes that system as it has not changed it for the past three elections. The trend is similar in local elections. As for the AK Party, it is one thing to say it will lose votes, it something else to say it will disappear. The latter won’t happen.

But what’s the possibility that it will weaken and lose its top position?

It is obvious that it will not lose in the next elections. I don’t know whether it will lose votes but we know it will not lose its top position. This is of course valid if the current conditions continue as they are.

What is the outlook of the electorate toward President Abdullah Gül?

He is one of the most liked presidents. There is great appreciation for him. He has great credit. He will be received with great appreciation wherever he decides to position himself.

Does that include the Prime Ministry?

This, of course, is something to be decided by the AK Party’s top administration. If it points to Gül, the electorate will support it. There is huge love and appreciation for the president.

What impact are the claims of a rupture between the AKP and the Fethullah Gülen movement, which calls itself “Hizmet” [Service], having on the government?

Neither the party nor Hizmet can risk such a rupture. If there is such a thing as a collective wisdom at the top, it will be aware that this will be akin to forcing the electorate to make a choice just like in the movie “Sophie’s Choice” [in which a mother is forced to choose between two of her children]. The electorate can like both Fethullah Gülen Hoca and Tayyip Erdoğan. If one of them forces the electorate to make a choice, the electorate’s reaction will be very strong. Even if there was such tension, the collective wisdom saw this, and I believe they backed down from that. At any rate, both took steps to alleviate claims of discord. If there is such discord, the one that started it will be the one harmed.


İbrahim Uslu is the general manager of Ankara Social Researches Center (ANAR), which conducts periodic surveys for the ruling Justice and Development Party.

Born in 1966, Uslu graduated from Istanbul University’s School of Political Sciences. He holds a bachelor’s of arts in public administration, a master’s degree in social policy and a PhD in social policy from the same university. Uslu has also done post-graduate studies at Cornell University.
After working as a research assistant and becoming an assistant professor at Istanbul University, he became a consultant in 2002 at Bersay Communications Consultancy. He was vice president at the firm before becoming general manager of ANAR in 2004.