How to mend a broken heart

How to mend a broken heart

Now that the Turkish referendum is over, all sides are taking stock and looking deep into the numbers that show an interesting future. Yes, there is widespread ballot-stuffing, huge irregularities and even the most devoted supporter of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan deeply feels the controversy that surrounded the electoral process. But behind all the victory speeches, there is a huge story unfolding.

IPSOS Research carried out a “morning-after” poll for CNN Türk that showed some remarkable shifts in voter behavior. Last Wednesday, when IPSOS CEO Sidar Gedik revealed the results on CNN Türk, we saw two distinct patterns and the Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) dilemma again. First-time voters opted overwhelmingly for “no” at 58 percent, whereas just 42 percent of the youth was in favor of Erdoğan’s extension of powers. This should ring alarm bells in the ruling AK Party as the demographics show clear trouble ahead.

Incredibly, women were equally split between “yes” and “no.” Here is where another Chinese wall cracks again. Women voters voted repeatedly in favor of everything Erdoğan for the past decade. Social transfers, neighborhood programs and Erdoğan’s personal appeal were able to lure female voters, one election after another. But this time, women felt the need to say something different. Prices at the grocery store have gotten higher and their sons and daughters have a hard time getting jobs. There is a lot of cronyism and political favoritism unfolding before their eyes. Women couldn’t turn their backs and ignore the reality. They were hurt and they showed it. Despite the overwhelming support that came from housewives, the AK Party has shown signs of discontent in its most devoted voter base.

Obviously, there is a broken heart there, and it is not limited to the AK Party base. The Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) voters are angry at the headquarters because they did not protest the irregularities in the referendum day-and-night. “‘No’ is not over, it has just started,” they chanted for about a week every evening in big cities like Istanbul, İzmir and Adana although none of these peaceful protests could get airtime on mainstream media and news channels. 

But one should not forget; the “no” vote, that priceless 49 percent, has a big Nationalism Movement Party (MHP) constituency, Felicity Party voters, Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) voters and even a very critical AK Party voter cluster in it. Anything that the CHP (or any opposition group for that matter) attempts to do should carry the signs of this grand coalition, which resembles the Gezi Park protests. And never underestimate the 51 percent of “yes” voters, who may opt for change when good leaders emerge.

Retired Maj.-Gen. Ahmet Yavuz, who spent three years in jail for the unfounded “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) claims, said this about the referendum: “You have a good army, now all you need is a great garrison and a great commander to lead the troops.”

A seasoned leftist politician who is currently out of political life, Eşref Erdem of the CHP, added another crucial factor. “Whoever should come for the challenge should be able to caress the center-right, conservative voters, as well as the Kurdish vote. We should find a common language. To keep this momentum alive, we need a good message and even a better messenger.”

To mend a broken heart, it takes a lot of soul searching and courage. To mend the hearts of voters, politicians need more than that.