Civilian opposition rather than institutions to check Erdoğan’s powers
The supporters of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) are surprised and angry.
“Where do people like me and who think like me live in this country that we have been proven so wrong? If he won with such margin there is ‘another’ world in our country. How can we be so unaware of them,” read one post on Twitter.
A significant portion of CHP supporters live in their comfort zones, don’t bother going to other parts of their home city and commute between big metropoles and coastal holiday towns, never laying foot in a central Anatolian town. Frequenting people like them, they end up thinking everyone is like them. But they have to come to terms with the fact that the outcome actually reflects the roughly 70 to 30 percent division in Turkey. On the one side you have a conservative bulk making up half of the population in big cities and a significant majority in Anatolia. On the other side you have a combination of secularists, social democrats, leftists, liberals, more Western-looking segments of the society making up the other half of the population in big cities and a slight majority in certain coastal towns.
While the 50/50 anti Erdoğan /pro Erdoğan division remains intact, when you break up the votes the outcome of both the presidential and legislative elections reflects this 70 to 30 percent division of Turkey’s political map. Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has added just an ethnic dimension to this division, which has been rather in favor of the 30 percent.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has proven that he has established a strong support base of around 40 percent that are loyal to him. Even if they might be unhappy about some aspects of his governance, about the economic difficulties, the education system, complain about unemployment, the presence of Syrian refugees, they support him like a fan would support a football club. You might not like the coach or the management of the club, but you don’t change your club.
Erdoğan got 52.6 percent of the votes while his Justice and Development Party (AKP) got 42.4 percent of the votes. Some 11.2 percent of the votes that his coalition partner Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) got shows that Erdoğan was able to be elected in the first round and maintain a majority in parliament thanks to MHP head Devlet Bahçeli’s support. MHP’s supporters made a pragmatic choice and opted to become part of the governing power.
The big loser of this election is the CHP, while ironically the winner is its presidential candidate, Muharrem İnce. In a matter of a few months he succeeded in raising the support base of his political party above 30 percent, a first in 41 years. While support was mobilized for İnce, the same did not happen for CHP’s parliamentary candidates. That’s only natural when you nominate for instance the party’s former head Deniz Baykal as MP from the southern province of Antalya. Can the CHP react to its supporters for resenting the 80-year-old politician, who has been hospitalized several times, who is known for his failure to show an effective opposition against the AKP as well as his unwillingness to rejuvenate the party? How can the CHP expect better results when the number of its female and young candidates was at such low levels?
The CHP lost some of its votes to the HDP and some to İYİ (Good) Party. The former is understandable as some cast strategic votes, enabling the HDP to pass the 10 percent threshold and thereby costing the AKP to have the majority by itself.
While the shift of votes from the CHP to İYİ Party is principally the fault of the CHP, İYİ Party’s Meral Akşener made a mistake by appealing to CHP voters rather than trying to canvass votes from the MHP and AKP.
But it has to be underlined that Akşener needs to be given credit as she has shown the courage of standing as a female candidate and made her party pass the threshold in its first election, even if this was also possible thanks to her election alliance with the CHP.
Bahçeli’s policies do not differ from that of Erdoğan’s, so he will not give him a hard time. But in line with the expectations of his supporters, he will seek certain privileges for his provincial organizations, especially ahead of the local elections. That means Erdoğan will have his friends free and with Bahçeli not interested to be under the spotlight, Erdoğan will have a one-man show. With a weakened parliament and weakened checks and balances system, Erdoğan will not meet a fierce opposition from political parties or institutions that have eroded independence or autonomy. But as put by Mustafa Akyol, while reigning with popular support, he will face popular resistance. Civilian opposition has shown a remarkable performance. Despite their frustration, Erdoğan opponents will keep vigilant in finding ways to breathe down his neck.