Unlevel playing field worked in favor of no camp, says pollster

Unlevel playing field worked in favor of no camp, says pollster

Faruk Acar is at the head of the ANDY –AR polling company, which has had some of the closest estimates of the succesive elections. As someone who took part in the yes campaign, he has direct access to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. His analysis about the referendum results was publisned in yesterday’s paper. 
As it was impossible to publish all of the interview which lasted nearly 2 hours, let me summarize the parts that have not been published.

According to Acar, the No campaign proved to be a successful one. “When you look to the cities with the highest no votes, you have Tunceli, Şırnak, followed by Edirne and kırklareli.  It is a success to have these cities with opposite voter profile in the same block,” he said. Indeed; in South Eastern cities with the highest no vote it was the devoted core Kurdish electorate of People’s Democracy Party (HDP) which contributed to that outcome; while in the Western cities like Edirne, Kırklareli you have an electorate least sympathetic to the Kurdish cause.

Opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) avoided using its party flag and logo and opened a space where other voters could become consolidated, according to Acar. “If Justice and Development Party (AKP) is facing a 45 percent mass which it can not convince at all, CHP’s political bagage is even bigger, with 75 percent harboring negative perception about CHP,” said Acar.

The yes and no votes were neck and neck most of the times. Even the events in Holland, while motivated the yes camp did not led to an increase in the yesv otes. But the moment one CHP parleamentarian said “we will throw the yes sayers to the sea,” the yes votes have seen an increase, according to Acar. They were later neutralized with the debates on the federal system that took place only few days prior to the referendum, otherwise Acar believes the yes votes could have come around 53 percent.

“We saw that the no camp increased its votes as long as it did not talk and lost when they talked,” he said.
 “There has been an unlevel playing field during the campaign period. HDP leadership were in prison for instance. Many argue that had there been a more fair campaig period the outcome could have come in favor of no camp,”  I said. This is how he responded:

“I disagree. Had Selahattin Demirtaş, Figen Yüksekdağ (jailed co chairs of HDP) been in the field and had they led a campaign based on  “we will not make you president,” (the sentence made famous by Demirtaş ahead of June 7, 2015 general elections), the result would have been 65 percent in favor of yes votes. The feeling of victimhood which came with the silence led to to consolidation in the no camp. The no camp was critisized for being invisible; but that worked in their favor.” 

In other words had there been a dominant HDP rhetoric, that would have rather consolidated the AKP – MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) bloc which was around 60 percent. 

Acar believes the Kurdish electorate which used to vote for AKP had approached the HDP during the solution process but now they have detached from the HDP again, by voting yes. “They had differentiated HDP from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and supported the HDP precisely because AKP recognized the HDP as an interlocutor. But when HDP could not openly separate itself from the PKK after June 7 elections, these voters parted their way with the HDP,” said Acar.

There has been an increase in the number of security forces deployed in the region; in addition several thousands of locals had been displaced; to what degree one can have a healthy reading of the outcome of the referendum with all the population movement. 

Acar claimed that his analysis of the tendency in the Kurdish votes is based on research conducted ahead of the referendum, which showed that locals were extremely concerned about the urban warfare and was helding responsible PKK and HDP. In addition, he argued that population movements were not at the extent of affecting the whole outcome.

“The difference this time is that in the past we used to have a village with 275 elgible voters. 275 votes would be casted in favor of HDP. This would happen despite the fact that there would be at least one ballot box observer from AKP. But not a single vote would come for AKP.” 

In other words Acar believes that the ballot boxes in the South East were secured from PKK harassment and dismiss critisism that this time there was state pressure on the Kurdish electorate to vote yes.

While Acar critisize the Supreme Electoral Board for failing the test on the day of the referendum; he does not seem to carry any doubt on the referendum result saying that in successive polls they conducted ahead of the referendum; no votes have never come ahead of yes votes and that there were no surprises even when they look at the result city by city.