Who is cooking up what for alliances?
Turkish domestic politics is never a dull place. It is sometimes depressing and harsh in terms of language, but never short of interesting get-togethers. Since last week we as journalists have been following two key trends that could change both the ruling Justice and Development Party (Ak Parti) and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Nationalistic Movement Party’s (MHP) Leader Devlet Bahçeli openly expressed his party’s support for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the upcoming presidential elections. Although the calendar pinpoints 2019, many say Bahçeli has dramatically increased the likelihood of an early election. He started campaigning in his hometown of Osmaniye this weekend with a huge rally and amusement park opening ceremony mostly filled with Ak Parti loyalists. This is a big change for Bahçeli, who rarely hits the road for big campaigns even during general elections. His rally resembled a regular Ak Parti launch ceremony. So what is really going on?
Bekir Ağırdır, the CEO of Konda Research has spoken about his latest poll findings with İpek Özbey of daily Hürriyet. “The bases of these two parties have appeared to mingle well over the past two years. Bahçeli probably felt the need to address the needs of his base when forming the alliance,” he said.
What Ağırdır means is the deep hunger of MHP’s base for a slice of the economic pie that the AK Parti has created. Putting your youth organizations in government positions, getting lucrative tenders for your businessmen, getting funds for your municipalities. You get the Picture…
But Bahçeli’s approach may have a surprising effect, says Faruk Acar of ANDY-Ar Research. Speaking during my talk show at private broadcaster CNN Türk last week, Acar explained the wider picture. “Even if this alliance continues flawlessly, differences could arise in the voting booth. Ak Parti and MHP voters may choose Erdoğan as president but vote differently in parliamentary elections. In fact, the MHP may get more votes than it has now.”
Confused? Who isn’t anyway? Let us look at the opposition. There, the picture gets even more complicated with Meral Akşener’s İYİ (Good) Party entering the race. Hakan Bayrakçı, the founder of Sonar, has announced their latest poll results: Akşener’s personal vote reaches 20% in the presidential race.
“Ms. Akşener exceeds CHP head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s by 2-3 points in a race that only has the leaders as candidates,” Bayrakçı said. He also believed that despite all the available resources, Erdoğan may not win the race in the first round. “If the CHP fields a candidate acceptable to center-right voters and Kurdish voters the race will reach the second round. That means plenty of surprises for Mr. Erdoğan,” Bayrakçı added.
The CHP’s latest move to elect the first woman as Istanbul chapter chair, Canan Kaftancıoğlu, represents a crucial step towards winning back female voters. Zeynep Gürcanlı of daily Sözcü told me that Akşener had already started chipping away at the CHP’s dedicated middle-aged urban women voter base. Kaftancıoğlu, a medical doctor and a politician from the far left branch of the CHP, may not be the ideal choice for solving the problem. But it is at least a sound start.
Experts and analysts have been mulling over the possible alliances cooking in the party kitchens. Every vote counts.