How will young, urban people vote in Turkey’s next elections?
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued a warning to officials of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) at a meeting last week. “Do not get involved in debates about an early election; do not even mention the phrase,” he reportedly said. The fact that the issue has since not been discussed among AK Party members is likely a result of this warning.President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued a warning to officials of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) at a meeting last week. “Do not get involved in debates about an early election; do not even mention the phrase,” he reportedly said. The fact that the issue has since not been discussed among AK Party members is likely a result of this warning.
Even though the issue of early elections is not a hot debate nowadays, the political agenda is dominated by debates about election alliances among the parties.
The break in talk of early elections may be influenced by recent public opinion polling. Indeed, most experts in the field think that the sum total of votes for the alliance between the AK Party and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) is likely to be lower than the sum total of votes that the AK Party and the MHP would receive separately. This brings to mind recent remarks from Manisa Mayor Cengiz Ergün, who is a member of the MHP. “The alliance does not exist in the party grassroots,” Ergün said.
Although this remark drew a reaction from Ankara, tension between AK Party and MHP members in the Manisa Metropolitan Municipality Council perhaps backs up Ergün’s observation. Likewise, the AK Party’s recent rejection in parliament of MHP deputy Erkan Haberal’s motion about the police force suggests that harmony between President Erdoğan and MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli is not strongly reflected in the grassroots of the two parties.
Pointing to the size of the swing voters, many pollsters emphasize the importance of the fact that Turkey’s urban population rose to 84 percent in 2017, up from 65 percent in 2000. Pollsters emphasize that “new” or “young” voters are having increasing difficulty connecting with the existing parties in Turkish politics.
KONDA director Bekir Ağırdır shared some data with the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) administration last week. According to Ağırdır, the Kurdish issue-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) had a significant share of the vote among young voters who were voting for the first time in the June 2015 election. The rate of votes from young voters for the AK Party, the MHP and the CHP was below the average of their overall vote in Turkey.
Obviously in the 2015 elections, the HDP - particularly its now-jailed leader Selahattin Demirtas - managed to strike a chord with young voters more attuned to technological changes and the opportunities of globalization.
Of course, many things have changed in the three years since June 2015. Nationalist and conservative sensitivities have increased among youths, as they have among all voters. But it is important to note that it is not only the AK Party and the MHP that can appeal to young nationalist and conservative people. The Felicity Party (SP) and the İYİ (Good) Party are also taking steps to attract this group of youth.
Meanwhile, love and respect for Atatürk and the principles of the republic are also reportedly a visible sensitivity among many youths. It is notable that the AK Party started to mention Atatürk’s values more in 2017, in a bid to tap into this trend.
A recent book prepared by the CHP-held Çankaya Municipality in Ankara, titled “Çankaya: Urban Health Indicators and Urban Health Development Plan 2019-2023” contained an interesting statistical finding. Apparently, the largest part of the demographic pyramid of the Çankaya district, where 1 million people live, is made up of people aged 20-24, while the 25-40 age group forms 25 percent of the district’s population. Figures from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) show that this situation is similar to the demographic structure of provinces that contain large universities such as Istanbul, İzmir, Antalya and Bursa.
When we consider this picture together with the 84-percent urbanization data referred to by KONDA director Ağırdır, we can see the main parameter of three important elections due to take place in 2019. The 2015 elections showed that youths was interested in the “new,” while the results of the April 2017 referendum showed that urban populations were most in favor of the parliamentary system. The attitude of these two categories could also be a determining parameter in the 2019 elections.