What is the new re-election strategy for the AKP/CHP

What is the new re-election strategy for the AKP/CHP

Career diplomat Yaşar Yakış is one of the founding members of the Justice and Development Party (AKP). He became the foreign minister in the first AKP cabinet formed after the 2002 elections.

“When we were forming the party, we conducted several opinion polls. We realized during these polls that religious issues and mainly the headscarf issue was not a top priority among the electorate,” he once told me. 

Using the results of the polls, the AKP built its program on three Y’s: “yolsuzluk” (corruption), “yoksulluk” (poverty), “yasaklar” (bans).

The AKP won the 2002 elections not because the electorate was attracted to its program. The AKP won because voters wanted to punish the mainstream parties they saw as mainly responsible for the 2000/2001 economic crisis.

But there is no doubt that it won the 2007 elections based on its performance.

In the first decade of AKP rule, the party’s elites refrained most of the time from using religious references.
Its self-confidence gained following the 2010 referendum and the third election victory in 2011 unleashed the urge for an Islamic agenda. 

This urge peaked during the campaign rallies for the June 7 elections, when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appeared on stage holding a copy of Quran in his hand.

Addressing crowds in Batman and Siirt, Erdoğan showed a copy of the Kurdish-language Quran as he lashed out at the pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP). “They have nothing to do with religion. Look, the Religious Affairs Directorate, which they want to shut down, has printed the Quran in Kurdish for you,” he said.

Using the holy book has not created the desired outcome. Conservative Kurds who might have been previously attracted to the AKP’s religious/conservative characteristics opted to vote for the HDP. Their ethnic identity weighed more than their religious identity.

In case of a re–election, it is fair to say that the votes of the Kurds will not go back to the AKP.
So the ruling party will try to lure the AKP voters who abstained from voting, as well as the conservative votes that went to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

It would probably be a mistake for the AKP to endorse anti–Kurdish rhetoric to secure the return of the votes that went to MHP. 

Just as using holy book has backfired against the AKP, using the symbol of terror can also backfire, just as it did in the past against the MHP. In 2007 elections, the MHP’s leader threw a bowknot to the crowds, implying that they will sent the jailed leader of outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to the gallows. The 14 percent the MHP got was not exactly a big electoral success.

When you read the different statements made by the AKP’s old guards you see the signs of a sound analysis about why the AKP registered a 9 point drop in the June 7 elections. They all seem to say that AKP has lost because it distanced itself from its original program. Most probably, Davutoğlu shares this view. Yet it is doubtful whether they are on the same page with Erdoğan on this issue. After all, Erdoğan, with his extravagant palace as well as corruption allegations involving his family, is a liability rather than an asset if the AKP were to go back to its “3Y” program.

In the case of a re–election, we might witness a micro strategy rather than a macro strategy on the part of the AKP. No doubt a systematic and scientific analysis is being conducted right now to see in which cities, districts and neighborhoods the AKP lost with the smallest margin to its closest competitor. They will shape a strategy designed for those places.

When it comes to the CHP, the situation is more complex. If the CHP has become a candidate to the government, it is thanks to the votes the HDP has stolen from both the AKP and the CHP. Trying to lure back the votes that went to the HDP will be like presenting single-party government to the AKP as a gift on a golden tray. Meanwhile, constructing this time election strategy on economic issues has not brought the desired jump on the votes. 

The question here is this. We keep hearing about the AKP conducting several analyses and preparing for a reelection. One wonders whether a similar exercise is taking place with the same professionalism in the CHP.