What did voters in Turkey say during presidential elections?
Turkey’s most polarizing leader will now be sitting in a chair that was designed to be above polemics with a mission to reconcile political forces, rather than pit them against each other.
As it was expected to be so before the elections, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan became Turkey’s president, not thanks to his supporters, but rather his opponents. It is the people who did not go to the ballot box that enabled Erdoğan to go up to Çankaya Palace.
Erdoğan’s die-hard, staunch opponents are furious at the five milion voters which had voted in the last local elections for CHP and MHP but did not bother to end their holidays this time to come back to their residential cities to vote. No doubt a small amount of AKP voters did not go to ballot box and they were replaced by some MHP voters. This further aggravates the situation as far as voter confidence to MHP and CHP is concerned.
As usual, consciously or unconsciously, the Turkish electorate gave some messages to the political elite and we need to try to understand what they said and the consequences their messages carry.
First and foremost, we understand Erdoğan, not the AKP, has a core constituency of between 42-44 percent, since Erdoğan received more or less the same number of votes as compared to the last local elections. Despite all the evil tactics he used to polarize the voters, Erdoğan failed to mobilize at least half of the nation behind him, as he was only able to receive 52 percent, with a participation rate of 74 percent. This will have an effect of curbing his appetite to rule the country as the sole supreme leader of the nation, something he would have aspired to do had he received more than 55 percent.
So the Turkish nation told him, “Fine, I reward your performance from the last decade, but I am not giving you the mandate to abuse your already dangerously exaggerated hubris.”
Another message came to the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), as it is their constituencies that mainly constitute those who did not go to the ballots.
They basically said “I am not happy with you,” full stop. We have to note that the desertion from MHP’s ranks are much greater than that of the CHP, whose electorate did not vote to support the joint candidate, but rather to make sure Erdoğan did not get elected with a higher vote ratio,
The most positive message came from votes cast for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) candidate Selahattin Demirtaş. The fact that he increased his votes from even the most conservative places in western Turkey, like İzmir, Bursa or Bolu show that a solution based on securing cultural and administrative rights without eroding the unitary nature of the state is welcome to both skeptics and to Kurds. It is safe to predict the HDP “stole” some of the CHP’s votes.
One would hope, therefore, that the CHP will derive the necessary conclusions from the HDP’s vote ratio and save the party from the small, yet quiet powerful group that has been highly critical of the Kurdish opening.
I doubt if the HDP can do as well in the 2015 general elections. Yet, the Kurdish movement, together with the leftist fraction, has proven to be a key player in Turkish politics.